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Breakers 3-3 Washington Spirit: Jodie Taylor Punishses Boston with Late Equalizer

Three penalty kicks, a red card, a yellow card and a 40-minute lightning delay capped a bizarre night in the Nation's Capital, as the Breakers spoiled a late second-half lead.

Diana Matheson and the Spirit never backed down, earning a late equalizer on Wednesday.
Diana Matheson and the Spirit never backed down, earning a late equalizer on Wednesday.
Paul Frederiksen-USA TODAY Sport

After scoring a trio of first-half goals, and effectively exposing the league's weakest back line, the Breakers appeared destined to claim an impressive victory over third-ranked Washington. A lightning delay, red card and late penalty spoiled Boston's offensive outburst, however, as the shorthanded club settled for a gut-wrenching draw.

The Breakers dream start began in the 3rd minute, when Jazmine Reeves chased a fleeting through ball into the box. Reeves and Spirit defender Niki Cross immediately went shoulder-to-shoulder, with both players fighting for an advantageous first step. Though Cross appeared to have a better read on the pass, she stumbled into Reeves, surrendering an early penalty kick.  O'Reilly stepped up to the spot, fooled keeper Ashlyn Harris, and slotted her penalty for an early 1-0 advantage.

Just two minutes later, Courtney Jones swung a cross-field ball into the box to Nkem Ezurike, who collected possession and backed down Spirit Defender Ali Krieger. With her back to goal, Ezurike attempted to turn and shoot, though Krieger cut her down inside the area. Without hesitation, the official called for a penalty, granting O'Reilly a second opportunity from the spot. With poise, the U.S. International went the opposite direction, again surprising Harris with a waist-high strike.

Sitting pretty with an early two-goal lead, the Breakers fell into a defensive stand, allowing Washington to work freely in the attacking third. Ex-Breaker Lisa De Vanna entered the mix right away, arriving on the end of a Diana Matheson free kick before striking an open-shot wide. The Australian International made herself known once more in the 22nd minute, receiving possession after a broken cross left her open on the far post. Naeher immediately came out to stifle the opportunity, however, denying De Vanna a precious opportunity in front of goal.

Six minutes later, De Vanna punished her previous club, sending a gorgeous cross onto Taylor's head on the far post. With space, Taylor nodded the pass home, instantly cutting Boston's lead in half.

After trading attacking opportunities, the Breakers earned one back, once again riding the attacking prowess of Jazmine Reeves. A deep cross from Nkem Ezurike nearly found Reeves at the top of the box, though defender Crystal Dunn lost her balance and misplayed the clearance. Reeves collected the loose ball and deftly chipped Harris, providing her side with a convincing 3-1 advantage.

In the second frame, the match followed a similar pace, with both teams battling for an early goal. De Vanna continued to assert herself as the hardest-working player on the field, continually forcing the Breakers to carefully guard her left side.

In the 56th minute, the Spirit found their way back into the match, capping a flurry of opportunities with a second Taylor goal. A sloppy foul inside the box--which should have resulted in a penalty--led to a Christine Nairn free kick from the edge of the 18. Nairn's creative chip found Taylor in front of goal, though Naeher denied her first opportunity. A second chance led to a point-blank finish for Taylor, who once again cut Boston's lead in half.

Following Taylor's ninth goal of the season, the Breakers appeared to catch a break, when a 40-minute lightning delay slowed Washington's attacking momentum. Unfortunately, just five minutes after the restart, substitute Maddy Evans came in late on midfielder Lindsey Lori. The official immediately went for his back pocked and sent off Evans, much to the surprise of Boston's hard-working sub, who appeared to only make minimal contact.

Shorthanded and in need of a strong finish, the Breakers found themselves on the defensive, a position that typically creates danger for Naeher's club. For 20 minutes, the Breakers stood tall, fending off countless opportunities from Matheson, Taylor and Co. But in the waning moments, the Breakers collapsed, surrendering a heartbreaking equalizer.

After threatening from start to finish, De Vanna set up another questionable goal--this time, though, it cost the Breakers three points. After receiving a pass from De Vanna, Taylor worked to beat ex-Spirit defender Bianca Sierra in the box. With her back to goal, Taylor turned and appeared to lose her footing, though the official punished Sierra for partially wrapping up Washington's star finisher. Following a strict protest from the royal and blue, Matheson beat Naeher to her right, gutting Tom Durkin and his struggling side.

In the early stages of Wednesday's midweek matchup, the higher powers appeared to favor the Breakers, who caught a handful of breaks before creating Reeves' sixth goal of the season. But in the end, the Spirit grinded out a gutsy performance, stealing two points from Boston on the back of Jodie Taylor.

Next Week

The Breakers will visit league-leading Seattle and striker Syndey Leroux. Match kicks off at 7:00 PM from Memorial Stadium.