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Boston Breakers come back for 2-2 tie against Washington Spirit

Adriana Leon and Abby Smith did their best to drag Boston to a result.

Amy Pearson

Starting XI: Abby Smith, Midge Purce, Julie King, Megan Oyster, Allysha Chapman, Angela Salem, Morgan Andrews, Rosie White, Adriana Leon, Katie Stengel, Tiffany Weimer

The Boston Breakers went into this game against the Washington Spirit with a much-weakened back line and it showed. Allysha Chapman made it into the starting XI despite carrying an injury and Julie King had to be shifted inside due to her own issues from Boston’s last game against FC Kansas City. That meant putting in Midge Purce at right back and leaving left-footer Amanda Frisbie on the bench.

That vulnerability in defense showed early, as Washington came out of the gate hyped to pressure high and scored in the 7’ when Estelle Johnson made a run and was able to slide in past the entire back line. Abby Smith came up big with the initial block but Johnson’s follow-up shot slipped between Smith and King to make it 1-0.

Washington kept up enormous pressure for the next 10 minutes or so, making it very hard for Boston to possess or do more than put a few searching balls forward for Katie Stengel or Rosie White.

Abby Smith made another big save in the 18’ as Havana Solaun took her turn exploiting Boston’s defense and was kept onside by a ball coming off a Boston defender, leaving her alone with Smith. But Smith made herself nice and big and blocked the shot.

Purce also had a better time of it as she was called on for less defensive work and started driving forward more. She had a great step to break up play in the 21’ and took the ball right up the middle, but her weakness remains not seeing the developing play one or two moves ahead of her.

Boston gradually dug back into the half, gaining more and more of the ball in the midfield while Washington was unable to keep up the frenetic pace. As Boston took control of the ball in midfield they slowed down the play and looked to start the ball out of the back, although a few times a quicker transition to hit Allysha Chapman, lingering wide in very open space, might have given them a better look at goal.

Abby Smith held fast in the 37’ when a fast Washington counter off a corner kick had Mal Pugh’s point blank shot saved again, with Smith coming off her line and cutting off Pugh’s options.

Keeping it down to 1-0 helped Boston stay in it, and eventually they took advantage of Washington’s drop off in pressure in the 44’ when Tiffany Weimer put a fantastic ball over from the midfield for Stengel. Stengel’s initial shot was blocked but Adriana Leon was waiting to finish off the rebound, making it 1-1.

Washington had one last chance in the half as Pugh rattled the entire goal frame with a free kick; Boston returned the favor as a bad touch from Shelina Zadorsky let White pounce on an open ball deep in Washington territory. But White fumbled her first touch and the ball was far enough ahead of her for GK Didi Haracic to pounce on it and keep it at 1-1 going into halftime.

Boston was a little slow to get started again in the second half. It wasn’t really Morgan Andrews’ day; she wasn’t as dominant in the midfield as she needed to be in order provide enough support underneath the forwards. A lot of Boston’s attack was using width through Leon or Chapman. Andrews got subbed in the 55’ for Amanda DaCosta, who got better the more she warmed up throughout the half.

Washington had a huge chance in the 58’ off a Pugh free kick that pinged around the box and ultimately got blocked off the line by Washington’s own Tori Huster, which gave Smith the opening she needed to smother the ball. Washington’s sub of Cheyna Williams for for Arielle Ship helped open up Boston’s back line and kept them searching for possession once again, trying to fend off the extra speed coming at them as Williams and Pugh kept punching at Boston’s left side.

Boston made a sub in the 64’ with Amanda Frisbie in for Chapman and Washington promptly scored a minute later, with Estefania Banini popping a ball in, Smith not quite in position to tip it over, and Williams there to finish it with her head on a wide open net with nary a Boston defender nearby.

Boston kept trying to drive forward and took more of the ball in the last 20 minutes. Purce one again made a deep drive along the right but her cross didn’t find anyone on the back post. Boston’s final sub was in the 69’ as Ifeoma Onumonu came on for Tiffany Weimer. Onumonu scarcely had five minutes to make a difference in her last sub against FC Kansas City, but here with more time to work, helped re-balance the scales as she proved hard to control on the right through her speed.

Abby Smith made another in her series of increasingly mind-boggling saves as she palmed away a long range Kristie Mewis shot in the 76’. And then Boston finally found the equalizer in the 79’ as Purce connected to Onumonu, and her nicely weighted ball plopped into the perfect space for Adriana Leon to tap it around Haracic.

Washington didn’t let up for a second. Pugh put the ball off the woodwork again in the 83’ while Tori Huster took her chances at range in the 90’, her ball headed for the upper 90 until Abby Smith leapt and tipped it over the bar in a definite candidate for save of the week. Boston fought back as well, as the last 10 minutes of the game opened up and the teams went back and forth, back and forth.

A head-to-head collision in stoppage between Angela Salem and Huster added even more stoppage. Both of them were able to walk off the field and finish out the game, which ended 2-2 after a pair of agonizing misses on each end of the field. Pugh’s free kick once again went into the crossbar in the seventh minute of stoppage, and then Boston’s very fast counter from Onumonu to Rosie White was put wide as White succumbed to the pressure closing in on her. White clearly knew she’d blown Boston’s last chance at three points and both teams were obviously frustrated and disappointed not to have won. It was, honestly, an extremely winnable game for either team, although Washington perhaps had the worst of the luck with how often they met their foe, crossbar.

Boston might have also used Natasha Dowie, although Onumonu certainly made a case for getting more experience on the field. she wasn’t the smoothest player on the ball, but she provided exactly the spark Boston was looking for in the offense and really deserved to have gotten a second assist on the day from White.

Boston now returns home to play the Houston Dash at Jordan Field on Wednesday, August 16 at 7:30 PM ET.