Starting XI: Abby Smith, Midge Purce, Julie King, Megan Oyster, Allysha Chapman, Angela Salem, Tiffany Weimer, Rosie White, Adriana Leon, Katie Stengel, Ifeoma Onumonu
Things got off to a start with a bang as the Boston Breakers took on Sky Blue FC away. The game looked a little hectic to start, each team trying to fight for a fast rhythm. It bit Boston in the butt as Sky Blue put in a ball over for Sam Kerr, who darted in between the center backs and then beat Abby Smith, who was sweeping incredibly high off her line. Smith missed the tackle on Kerr, allowing her to easily roll the ball into an empty net and make it 1-0 in the 5’.
But Boston really dug back and settled down as time wore on, looking fairly decent the more time went on in the half. They dominated flank play through Onumonu and Purce and were moving up together into the box to attack, leaving goalscorer Kerr mostly high and dry on her end of the field for good chunks of the half.
Boston put in Stengel a few times, but she kept having to cover the final third with a defender on her heels and just wasn’t fast enough to get to the goal first for a shot. Stengel was much better around the box, pulling in players to open up some space for Leon or Purce or Onumonu.
Abby Smith didn’t let her early mistake rattle her confidence; in the 24’ she had a great save, pushing a header over the bar from a Sky Blue corner. Sky Blue had another corner immediately afterwards and Boston’s defense stayed pretty tight to their marks.
Boston had another nice chance in the 30’ when Smith dropped a long ball just about right for Onumonu, who beat Kayla Mills but not Kailen Sheridan, as her first touch failed her and the ball got away from her and into Sheridan’s gloves.
Sky Blue tried to tug the game back in their direction, threatening through Sam Kerr, who was either lingering between the CBs or waiting to help spring the fast break. Julie King was clearly pushing herself to the max to keep up with Kerr, and for the most part she did it, although several times she kept going in at Kerr and losing the battle. She did it in the 38’, which gave Kerr room to turn and shoot. Smith had to be quick to get down and save the low shot.
The half finished out with Purce making another rush up the right and her cutback did find Leon’s feet - but Leon was just too far off the near post and her attempt went into the side netting. Teams went into halftime at 1-0, Sky Blue leading.
Boston came out in the second half by resuming their patient play, winning 50/50 balls and moving up pretty well through the midfield. But things always came to a screeching halt around the box. Crosses, spare as they were, went begging for a finish. Neither Stengel nor Onumonu could find any room to turn and shoot.
Boston tried to add a little more oomph to their midfield push as they subbed in Morgan Andrews for Tiffany Weimer in the 58’. Andrews maybe smoothed out some the movement in the midfield, but had the same problem with finding someone who could take the ball and shoot.
Boston’s second sub was in the 70’ as the previously injured Brooke Elby returned to the field for Adriana Leon, slotting in at right back, which moved Purce up to the left in Leon’s vacant spot. Still the problems with the offense as Stengel couldn’t beat her defenders to the ball and wasn’t being found as a target in the box.
Boston’s final sub was in the 77’ as Natasha Dowie came on for Stengel. Allysha Chapman started trying to take matters into her own hands, pushing up through the middle and trying to put in a forward. But Sky Blue defended the ball out and Kelley O’Hara returned the favor, pushing up through the middle, pushing back Boston’s DMs and opening up space for a cross from the right which had to be defended out.
Boston had yet another great chance in the 82’ when Chapman put in a cross that drew Sheridan off her line. The ball popped out to Rosie White, whose one-time volley flew over the bar. Boston had more good movement through the midfield, but somehow the forwards were just missing in front of goal.
Boston’s last real chance was in the 89’ as a corner kick fell for Onumonu, who couldn’t quite put her laces through the ball, deflecting her point-blank shot out for another corner. Abby Smith salvaged an off-her-line situation in stoppage to push out a last Sky Blue attempt, and full time ended at 1-0 for Sky Blue.
Boston is clearly a better team than they were last year, and it’s to their credit that they mostly handled Sam Kerr for most of the game. But for that early gaffe, this game could have ended up salvaging a point at 0-0. But little defensive miscommunications allowed Kerr to threaten more than she should have, while Boston’s inability to find any bite in the final third made all that defensive cover for naught. Boston could’ve desperately used Rose Lavelle, who has finally been upgraded on the injury list, but wasn’t ready by tonight going by the substitutions. Onomonu, Stengel, Purce, even Leon - they all need things to really line up to get good scoring chances, and Lavelle is the kind of player who puts the ball right where a player needs it. It’s either that, or look for someone who can be more ruthless in front of goal for 2018.
Boston’s next game is also away vs the Orlando Pride on September 2 at 7:30 PM ET.