In a game filled with attacking chances, the Breakers did little to capitalize. The result: a missed opportunity to steal three points at home against the top team in women's soccer, a 3-2 loss that should have resulted in much more.
From the opening moments, the Breakers reworked attack showed considerable promise, though goals simply did not arrive. A goal kick from Ashley Phillips found a streaking Kyah Simon in the 3rd minute, who directed an open shot high to spoil an early goal-scoring opportunity. Six minutes later, Sky Blue FC forward Monica Ocampo slotted a pass wide to Australian International Lisa De Vanna, who took a soft touch before curling her shot inside the far post. For Sky Blue, one opportunity resulted in one goal.
In the 26th minute, after Breakers forward Katie Schoepfer created her own space and fired a shot low an wide, Sky Blue midfielder Katy Freels played a diagonal ball through to Ocampo, who proceeded to beat Phillips with a near post volley. Sky Blue's second promising chance resulted in a second goal.
For the Breakers, who have won just one of their previous seven matches, the story of missed opportunities carried well into the second half. In the 52nd minute, Schoepfer received a through ball, deftly cut back on her defender, and placed an open look on the keeper's chest; four minutes later, Simon took a wonderfully-paced through ball from defender Julie King and again directed her shot at the keeper. The Breakers did, however, catch a break in the 60th minute, when first-time starter Maddy Evans played King on the touchline, who's lofting cross found Joanna Lohman's head in the center of the six-yard box. Lohman calmly netted the cross.
With their lead cut in half, Sky Blue wasted little time responding. In the 70th minute, Freels received a lazy centering pass from forward Danesha Adams and buried a 19-yard attempt past substitute goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who relieved Phillips after an ineffective first 45.
Dejected but not finished, the Breakers proceeded to create several chances of their own, though Simon again failed to find the net. From ten yards out, the Australian fired high on an unoccupied goal, a strike that would've drawn the Breakers within one. Less than 60 seconds later, Simon beat Sky Blue's offside trap and strode into the box, only to place a one-on-one opportunity into the sliding chest of Sky Blue goalkeeper Brittany Cameron.
In extra time, Simon finally converted, directing a low corner kick from forward Katie Schoepfer into the back of the net. For the first time all night, Simon's crew showed expected urgency, though the final five minutes failed to reconcile the first 90, sending the Breakers to a 3-2 loss.
After the game, Breakers head coach Lisa Cole continually reflected on the team's missed opportunities, believing "the recipe is to finish chances. The chances were there for us. On their third goal, five of our players were out there watching it, as [Sky Blue] ran their tails off to capitalize."
Asked if the absence of American forward Sydney Leroux played into the team's misfortunes, Cole immediately pointed to her team's attacking depth. "Kyah Simon is a goal scorer, and she hasn't been able to find the back of the net for us; Katie Schoepfer is a goal scorer, and she hasn't been scoring the same as she has in the past; the same is true of Lianne Sanderson. We need our frontrunners to start taking responsibility."
Team captain Cat Whitehill echoed Cole's frustrations, but believed Sunday's chemistry served as a poor representation of team dynamics. "We practice really well together - we were streaming passes along and then all of the sudden they get a goal," she responded. "Just like the defense has to step up individually, so does the offense."
For Sky Blue head coach Jim Gabarra, however, a depleted roster due to international service made little-to-no difference on Sunday's outcome. "I've been really impressed with team chemistry, and our second layer of leadership has been exceptional," he said. "You never know when you're going to get it right, but right now, were getting it right."
Cole's parting words provided a polarizing response. "Some of these players need to decide if they're going to be impact players in this league or not. Right now, were just not getting enough out of this team."
The Breakers will host Hope Solo and Seattle Reign FC at 7 p.m. on June 26 at Dilboy Stadium. For tickets, visit breakerstickets.com