Starting XI: Prudhomme, King, Westphal, Oyster, Elby, Salem, Andrews, White, Chapman, Purce, Dowie
It was a different lineup for Boston as they took on the Houston Dash away. Allysha Chapman returned to the lineup, slotting in as a hybrid defender/midfielder on the left in place of Emilie Haavi. Boston used Chapman to defend with five, and then had her push up the flank in the attack.
That is, when they managed to attack. Boston spent the first 20 or so minutes absolutely chasing the game, trying to hold their shape in front of goal and deny either Carli Lloyd or Rachel Daly an opening to exploit. They managed it for the most part, with the offside flag taking care of the rest of Houston’s pushes through the back line. In return, Boston sent plenty of long balls looking for Dowie or Purce. Sometimes Purce was able to pounce on the ball with speed, but every time she held it far too long and didn’t lay it off to put her teammates in on goal.
Boston did eventually start to dig back into the game, although the rare ball that went into the 18 got scooped up by goalkeeper Jane Campbell. It was fairly emblematic of Boston’s offense when Dowie got the ball up by the left corner flag in the 28’ and looked up to find absolutely no options presenting themselves to help her out of pressure. But with White, Salem, and Andrews really trying to sink their claws into the midfield, at least Houston weren’t able to entirely overrun them there, which made the game eventually settle into more of a deadlock rather than eight or nine players in blue behind the ball barely keeping track of the Dash. Teams went into the half at 0-0.
Boston came out in the second half with a sub, Emilie Haavi coming on for Brooke Elby and initially slotting in at right forward. At first they were still slow climbing out of their first half funk. But they began moving the ball better, even though Purce often dead-ended by holding the ball too long. Still, her tenaciousness and willingness to chase down balls, like in the 64’ when she fought Amber Brooks and won the ball, eventually allowing the advancing Salem to get off a shot on goal.
Boston made their second sub in the 65’ with Adriana Leon for Purce and the difference was noticeable. Leon was a spark in the offense in her usual right forward spot, which shifted Haavi left. Boston started switching the ball into space more and Westphal pushed higher along the right, allowing Boston to open up more channels of attack on Houston’s goal. Leon had some freedom to roam as well, giving Dowie more support around the box.
Boston’s third sub was in the 75’ with Amanda Frisbie on for Allysha Chapman. Frisbie generally did a good job tracking back and covering Houston’s efforts to get into crossing position on the right, although there were still several scrambles in front of goal that a better team than the Dash might have capitalized on for a goal, and in fact Prudhomme had to make a very solid grab on a flick on in the 76’.
Boston kept pushing out, getting higher and higher on the field while at the same time keeping Lloyd from getting in on Prudhomme. And in the 84’ their efforts seemed to pay off, Leon ripping a shot in front of the goal that deflected off Dowie, who was trying to pull in on herself away from the ball. The ref called it back for handball.
Boston had a couple more stabs at goal, including a great sequence where Dowie hit Leon in stride in front of goal with a clear shot, but Campbell came up big with the save to keep it level, and the game ended at 0-0.
The Breakers have got to be sore over losing out on three points, especially road points, which they desperately needed. And there has got to be salt in the wound considering they lost out on points through no fault of their own but a bad call from the ref. No team likes to see their efforts to claw back a respectable result after a miserable first half rewarded with a blown call and for Boston especially, it’s far more than insult added to injury.
Still there are plenty of things Boston needs to work on, things that could have won them the match regardless of the ref. Purce will need to work on whatever it is keeping her from trying to find teammates and the team’s control in midfield overall needs to improve drastically. There were pockets of space where the players seemed on the same wavelength, but that simpatico needs to be all over the field and needs to take way less than 25 or 30 minutes to get going.