It was a slow start for Boston on a crisply cold evening at Jordan Field. Both the Breakers and Sky Blue FC spent the early minutes of the game probing forward, looking for space in the box, Sky Blue in particular trying to see if they could get the ball to Sam Kerr. They sent a lot of runs down the right, putting the screws to Allysha Chapman, who to her credit hunkered down more and more over the course of the first half. But her Canadian counterpart Adriana Leon was a bit isolated and it showed in Boston’s ability to push against Sky Blue’s back line. Boston definitely had a bit more bite when Leon was able to get between Sky Blue’s lines and pull some attention from Katie Stengel and Natasha Dowie.
Dowie in particular was quite the exclamation point at the tip of Boston’s spear. They continually used her as the pace-setter up top, getting her the ball and counting on her technical skills to hold up play and allow the rest of the Boston offensive unit to push higher around her. She played her role well and it paid off in the 25’ as she scored her first goal off a nice ball dropped right in her lap from Midge Purce. Dowie was unmarked in front of goal, SBFC’s defensive deficiencies on display.
Then barely four minutes later, Dowie scored again to make it 2-0 with a flick onto the far post.
But as Sky Blue has shown, it doesn’t really matter how many goals up you are over them, you can’t ever really count them out when they have Sam Kerr in their employ. She cut the lead in half with a goal in the 34’ as she somehow hit a really nice one-time goal past Abby Smith at a steep angle in the 34’.
Boston tried to capitalize on whatever leftover momentum tjey had from the second half, making an early sub with Ifeoma Onumonu on for Tiffany Weimer in the 53’. Onumonu was able to eat up space on the right side of the field and wasn’t bashful about trying to take players on, but was also slow to recover, leaving Boston a little bit vulnerable on that side.
Sky Blue really ranged out of their half, punishing every bad Boston touch by trying to break out and take advantage of the counter, like in the 61’ when Midge Purce was caught high and Sky Blue attacked into the space she left.
Boston made their second sub in the 62’ with Morgan Andrews on for Katie Stengel. Boston put Andrews under Natasha Dowie and had Salem drop deeper with Brooke Elby. Andrews took her chance almost right away, shooting from just outside the 18 in the 67’, but her shot was stopped by a low dive from GK Caroline Casey. Boston continued to suffer from some bad close control as they tried to drop a little deeper to pull Sky Blue out of their own territory. Sky Blue definitely had the edge in the middle of the second half, pushing back every time Boston tried to defend out, and they made the most of it in the 76’ when Madison Tiernan managed to squirt a ball past defenders and Abby Smith to tie it at 2-2. They followed it up with the go-ahead goal in the 78’ when the ref made a poor call on a supposed foul that gave SBFC a free kick in a dangerous spot close to goal and Erica Skrorski put the ball in to make it 3-2.
Boston began pushing back after the goal, Leon once again driving into space to make Boston more dangerous. The Breakers put the ball around the goal plenty of times but no one was quite able to score until the 85’ when a lobbed ball bobbled through Casey’s fingers and into the goal. But Boston wasn’t able to keep the tie as SBFC scored their fourth in the 87’ with an unmarked O’Hara making a run into the box and hitting a line drive at the goal.
And that’s how the game ended, a wild 4-3 that was very Sky Blue, in that many of their victories this season have been “if you score X, we’ll score X+1” wins. As for Boston, scoring three goals (own goal from SBFC notwithstanding) is certainly an improvement over the rest of their season, and that they put three past two teams in a row shows that they can take advantage of weak defenses as a competent team should. But they could have put up more, and the defensive breakdown as they were finally putting together offensive looks was extremely unfortunate.
Thus passes another season for the Boston Breakers, who finish ninth in the league ahead of the Washington Spirit by virtue of their head-to-head record. There are many questions to ask of this team in the offseason and there are many clear areas where improvement is necessary if this team is to claw their way out of the bottom ranks. There are several reasons why Boston may yet make that climb, but in the long, cold offseason, there’s plenty of time to contemplate the hows and whys of it all.