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Boston drops 2-1 to Orlando Pride

It started off rough, but Boston at least looked better than they did against Houston.

Amy Pearson

Starting XI: Abby Smith, Megan Oyster, Julie King, Allysha Chapman, Midge Purce, Angela Salem, Morgan Andrews, Rosie White, Amanda Frisbie, Katie Stengel, Ifeoma Onumonu

Boston started off against Orlando with five in the back, reflecting their clear awareness that the Pride presented a much bigger attacking threat than Houston, who they played earlier in the week. Frisbie, Chapman, King, Oyster, and Purce all lined up in the back, with Frisbie and Purce tasked with sweeping up as needed. Orlando switched Marta over to Purce’s side to smartly pressure the more vulnerably defender, leaving Frisbie most often available to work in space.

But if Boston started more brightly than expected, it was promptly given a punch to the gut as the referee called for a corner kick on what should have been a goal kick and Alex Morgan finished off the scramble in the box to make it 1-0 in the 8’.

It took Boston some minutes to get back into the game, trying to deal with Orlando’s pressure, which kept them pressed back in two fairly tight lines deep in their own territory. Boston, perhaps already tired from playing Houston on Wednesday, wasn’t stepping to the ball enough to disrupt Orlando’s possession for long periods, although they gradually worked their way back into the game and had a great chance in the 21’ as they lumped a ball forward and Ashlyn Harris’ save resulted in a corner. The corner almost got put over the line, but the ref whistled for a foul instead and Boston returned to trying to deal with Orlando’s offensive press.

Salem and Andrews alternately dug in, doing their best to block off the midfield and cycle the ball out wide. Purce had some good movement along the wing, although she wasn’t getting in the final ball that much as she dealt with Orlando’s Steph Catley. But Onomonu began applying some more pressure herself, helping to relieve the midfield a little bit and keep the ball higher for Boston for longer periods. Boston also did better to recover as a unit, midfielders dropping to compensate for recovering fullbacks. The game grew more back-and-forth as Boston stepped to Orlando more and looked for early releases for the forwards.

Abby Smith did well to stay on her toes late in the half as Orlando had a flurry of half-chances and teams went into halftime at 1-0.

Boston came out in the second half once again needing time to find a rhythm. At the top, Onumonu was not pushing high enough to give Boston numbers up whenever they went forward, leading to 1-v-2 or 1-v-3 situations for Stengel.

Abby Smith had another series of great punches around the 50’ as Orlando looked for goals from corners which seemed to allow Boston to gather itself, getting Onumonu in a one on one position in the 57’. Onumonu headed the ball down to her feet but leaned back on the shot and put it way over the bar in what was Boston’s best opportunity of the game so far.

Boston continued to be more responsive to Orlando than proactively searching for the ball forward, doing their best to swarm Alex Morgan in the box and just calm down so they could regain possession and play out of the back again. The fullbacks had some good piercing runs and Onumonu made a good run to provide a passing channel but her attempted cross was stuffed.

Boston made two quick subs with Adriana Leon on for Allysha Chapman in the 64’ and Natasha Dowie on for Katie Stengel in the 71’. It was telling of Boston’s lack of depth from the bench as Leon went into Chapman’s position, though perhaps with a mandate to push higher and try to get Boston looking more threatening going forward.

There was some confusion in the 73’ with players coming off the field and Megan Oyster was forced to step off while Orlando had a set piece. Still, even if they were down to 10, Boston has no excuse for the rather inept defending that left Alex Morgan open in the box right in front of the gal, allowing her to easily finish the feed from Camila to make it 2-0.

Boston made their final sub in the 76’ with Amanda Da Costa coming on for Morgan Andrews. Of note, this was Da Costa’s last game with the Breakers as she is retiring to pursue a master’s degree.

Julie King began trying to push forward out of the center more in an effort to give the midfield some more punch and the entire formation began sweeping forward to apply more pressure to Orlando. Purce once again tried to take it to her defender but the ref whistled her for a foul despite being held by her defender.

As the game’s final minutes ticked down, Boston surged forward, eventually resulting in a run from Adriana Leon and a challenge from Jamie Fields that took her down in the box. The ref pointed to the spot and Amanda Da Costa stepped up to the spot. She buried it well to make it 2-1, scoring in her final appearance as a pro soccer player. It was a bittersweet gesture in a game that may have felt more influence from the refs than was strictly necessary, especially considering Boston looked like it might hold up much better than predicted against Orlando’s exciting attack and after a tough midweek loss. After the game Da Costa said that Natasha Dowie was prepared to take the penalty, but that she felt confident in her last moment as a pro that she could handle the moment.

Beard chuckled ruefully when asked about the reffing after the game. “I hope it gets looked at,” he said, directly citing bad ref calls as giving Orlando the opportunity for both Alex Morgan goals.

Abby Smith was a little more direct about giving up goals. “They definitely could have been avoided,” she said after the game. “We just have to stay tuned in for the entire play.”

Boston will now look to take on Sky Blue FC away on Saturday, August 26 at 7 PM ET.