Riding the inspired play of rookies Nkem Ezurike, Mollie Pathman and Jazmine Reeves, the Breakers entered Thursday's match looking to upend the league-leading Seattle Reign, something no club has done so far in 2014. Instead, they fell victim to a pair of early goals--and an inspired defensive performance--dropping their ninth match in 12 attempts.
In the opening moments, after her side played an optimistic through ball over the top, Reign midfielder Beverly Goebel came crashing toward Breakers skipper Cat Whitehill. The center back never found her footing, leaving room for Goebel to regain possession and take an unchallenged shot on goal. Goebel calmly slotted her shot past Naeher and inside the far post, giving Seattle a 1-0 lead in the 2nd minute.
In the moments that followed, the Breakers struggled to settle, as rookies Reeves, Pathman and Ezurike failed to establish an attacking rhythm. In the 17th minute, the team found their first opportunity of the match, when Courtney Jones stung a free kick on frame. With an outstretched top arm, Seattle goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer deflected the shot off the crossbar and out of danger, denying Jones the equalizer.
As the first half pressed onward, Seattle continued to turn in a near-flawless match, dominating possession while continually turning down the Boston's offensive opportunities. In the 25th minute, Japanese International Nahomi Kawasumi curled a dangerous corner into the box that found midfielder Keelin Winters, who rose to the occasion 15 yards from goal. With Danielle Foxhoven and a handful of Boston defenders in front of goal, Winters' header snuck past a screened Naeher, giving Seattle a 2-0 lead.
In the final ten minutes of the first frame, the Breakers developed a pair of opportunities, working to cut Seattle's lead in half. A 36th minute cross from Mollie Pathman found a rising Courtney Jones in the box, who headed the attempt high and wide. Three minutes later, after midfielder Maddy Evans tirelessly fought to win possession, Joanna Lohman played a soft through ball onto the foot of Reeves. The rookie forward took a delicate touch and attempted to beat Kopmeyer on the ground, though the ‘keeper stretched her right leg and poked the opportunity wide and into safety.
For the majority of the first half, the Breakers failed to hold possession in the attacking third, with forwards Ezurike and Katie Schoepfer struggling to take positive first touches. As a result, the Reign entered the break in full control, carrying a dominant 2-0 advantage.
The second half entered with little fanfare, however, as both sides turned in a sluggish first 15 minutes. Sloppy passing and unenthused challenges marked the play of both sides, as neither club found the space to push forward.
Twenty minutes in, the Breakers started to develop a handful of half-chances, with Jones providing much-needed energy in the attacking third. The team's first true opportunity arrived in the 74th minute, when Mollie Pathman turned a bad giveaway into a 30-yard attempt on goal. Kopmeyer stretched to her left and denied the shot with a sprawling save.
Just moments later, Reeves followed a deep run down the left flank with a low-driving cross. Even with three attackers in the area--Ashley Grove, Kim DeCesare and Courtney Jones--the Breakers came up empty, failing to take advantage of a desperate opportunity.
In the 89th minute, with 10 players forward, the Breakers nearly converted, though a strong defensive play by Seattle defender Elli Reed preserved the shutout. With space in front of goal, Julie King headed a shot toward the far post, only to have Reed clear the opportunity off the line.
Though both clubs entered the match with roster uncertainties, Seattle asserted themselves as the more game-ready club, sitting back on the Breakers while defending no more than a handful of goal-scoring opportunities. In the end, Laura Harvey's crew never skipped a beat, quieting the Breakers promising rookies en route to a 2-0 victory.
The Breakers will visit Sky Blue FC for the first of seven consecutive road games. Match kicks off at 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 22.