The Boston Breakers, as is their wont, came out of the gate once again raring to go, but not finishing their chances. Still, it was encouraging how they took the game to Portland from minute one, either using Midge Purce wide in space or trying to put the ball into space for natasha Dowie and Rose White. The team definitely found some success pulling the game wide and then switching the point of attack through Purce, who continues to be able to drive at a defense like no one’s business. Still, Purce is an unfinished product, and she often takes too many touches while not feeding the emerging play, resulting in a shot from a bad spot or a turnover.
Portland started to dig back in after the first 10 or so minutes, slowly finding a rhythm and looking to leave behind the back line through Nadia Nadim, Allie Long, or Hayley Raso. They had an incredible chance in the 15’ as Raso crossed a ball right in front of the goal. Nadim was just late, but had she gotten a touch on it, she would have had open net. Boston did their best to disrupt and take their chance to get the ball back up the field, although they were lacking on winning first and second balls, which allowed Portland too much control of the midfield.
Finally after about 20 minutes Boston was able to defend the ball out and work it into good space, with Salem acting as the fulcrum to feed Dowie. Dowie switched it quickly for Leon, but she wasn’t able to get her foot through the ball.
Boston continued attacking, doing a good job of controlling Sinclair in the center. Salem was good at holding the center and calming everything down while she set up a feed to push up again. Boston also kept pulling the field fairly wide and Purce had a decent long diagonal drop into the box, but it was plucked out of the air by Franch in the 31’. Another great ball over in the 36’ for Dowie didn’t quite manage to get settled for a shot, but she was clearly one of the most threatening players for Boston throughout the half. Dowie had even more threatening chances, her good technical skill helping her evade defenders at the top of the box and try to feed Chapman, whose cross didn’t find an attacker to finish it far post. Then Leon fed a fantastic ball to Dowie right in front of Franch, who had a quick reaction to grab her header. Boston was consistently the more threatening of the two teams in the first half but the scoreline at the end of 45 minutes was 0-0.
Boston started the second half similarly strong, pressing Portland back into their half, and recycling the ball out of the back when they needed toe reset. Purce had a half decent chance in the 52’ when a speedy run from Chapman up the left put the ball into the box, but she was too tightly marked to really get her head on the high, looping cross.
Boston made their first sub in the 56’ with Rose Lavelle coming on for Brooke Elby. Lavelle dropped in with Rosie White in the midfield, releasing Angela Salem to run a little higher. Boston continued pressing, really trying to pick out Dowie, although a beautiful ball from Purce allowed a late run from King into the box. King’s header went over the bar, though, but it was part of good Boston offensive pressure from both sides.
Rose Lavelle almost released Dowie in the 61’ with a neat little pass, but Dowie gathered the ball at a sharp angle and her shot was gathered by Franch.
Boston’s second sub came in the 66’ with Ifeoma Onumonu coming on for Tiffany Weimer. Weimer was struggling a bit throughout the game, not quite on the same wavelength as her teammates, which disrupted some of their rhythm in the attempt to build on the left.
Boston’s third sub was in the 71’ with Katie Stengel on for Dowie, who until then had looked like she had a goal in her. But her lack of scoring came back to bite Boston when Christine Sinclair broke the deadlock in the 72’, running onto a loose ball at an angle after a defensive scramble left it in space for her to make a late run. Sinclair buried it far post with her usual accuracy to make it 1-0.
Boston tried to respond right away but an offside call caught Angela Salem up on the endline. Boston continued pouring on pressure, with Portland defending hard to keep the ball away from Franch. Boston started getting slightly too frantic in their attempts, wanting quick releases or balls over, but Stengel didn’t provide nearly the same quality of target as Dowie, and with Leon tiring and Onumonu’s speed not catching the ball, chances still weren’t turning into goals.
Rose Lavelle had a good idea in the 85’, when after making a couple of darting runs herself to eat up space, she instead tried to release Onumonu early. But it was too soon, and Franch came off her line to clear off the ball before Onumonu could reach it.
Despite continued Boston pressure - the kind which they applied all game long - the final score was 1-0 for Portland, assuring the Thorns a home playoff spot for the semifinals.
Meanwhile Boston will surely be disappointed not to get a result after outplaying Portland for so much of the game. But the loss was a symptom of a much larger problem, in which Boston has been completely unable to score with any regularity. The stark difference between Boston’s multitude of chances that went begging versus Christine Sinclair’s one calm, cool finish illustrated the reality of Boston’s season.
Boston will now go on the road as they face the Washington Spirit on September 23 at 7 PM ET.