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Boston Breakers Defeat Houston Dash 3-2 in Home Opener

The Boston Breakers defeated the Houston Dash 3-2.

Stephanie Yang

The Boston Breakers defeated the Houston Dash 3-2 in their home opener off of goals by Julie King, Nkem Ezurike, and an own goal by Carli Lloyd.

Boston came out strong in the first half, scoring two goals in just over 30 minutes. The first came off a scramble in the box, with defender Julie King in the right place at the right time to finish off the ball before Dash goalkeeper Bianca Henninger could collect. The second was a nicely worked play off a deep run by Stephanie McCaffrey, who found Nkem Ezurike waiting in the box. Ezurike finished the ball with a deceptively casual touch and was solid until she was subbed out in the 74'.

Houston cut the lead in half off a goal by former Portland goalscorer Jessica McDonald, who redirected a beautiful cross into the box by Kealia Ohai. Houston's second goal was also by McDonald, this time assisted by Morgan Brian. McDonald received the ball and ran past the back line, who seemed to want an offside call but did not receive it. Naeher came off her line and made herself big in an attempt to scatter McDonald, but was instead forced to watch as McDonald's chip rolled into the net.

There was action all over the field from both teams, with piercing runs from Steph McCaffrey all game long and several huge saves from Alyssa Naeher. Houston did their best to stretch the Boston back line but Kassey Kallman and Julie King put in two hard 90-minute shifts. Coach Durkin pointed out, "We ran into problems when we went out too quickly. When we held our line we did really, really well."

The difference maker was the own goal in the 72'. The Breakers received a free kick after Morgan Brian fouled Suzane Pires; Kristie Mewis delivered a dangerous ball into the box that bounced around and ultimately deflected off of Carli Lloyd's foot. In the postgame press conference, Coach Randy Waldrum said, "Giving away the third goal on an own goal kind of broke [our] back a little bit there. Disappointing to fight back from two down and not get at least a point on the road out of it."

Waldrum also called Breakers goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher "the biggest difference in the game today," adding "I can think of at least three really big saves she made that most keepers don't."

Breakers coach Tom Durkin said he thought Houston looked good in their first two matches of the season.  "They won convincingly at home and then they drew on the road.  They had no problem coming back and drawing so they're very strong up front, and then any midfield with Carli Lloyd in it is a good midfield. We know Morgan Brian and what she can do."

Durkin said playing four midfielders "really worked well for the first 20 minutes, but then [Rafinha] tired out a little bit." Of the team's Brazilian internationals, Durkin said, "It's still a big adjustment for them, but they really want to do well. I have confidence in those four players and what they're going to be able to contribute, but they're still a step off."

Durkin attributed part of the win to the team's work over the past two weeks after losing in Portland. "We said we were going to remedy some of the things we felt needed work from the first game, and one of them is our speed of play and ball movement. We didn't move the ball well enough against Portland because we were sort of awed by the occasion."

He predicted that the team will only improve from here, calling them "a really young team," but adding "I really like this team. I have a lot of confidence that this group of players is going to come together. They're going to gel. We just need time with them."

The Breakers are now 1-1-0 and move up to 7th in the league standings with 3 points overall. Their next game is away at WNY Flash on May 2.

Lineups:

Boston: Alyssa Naeher, Mollie Pathman, Kassey Kallman (c), Julie King, Maddy Evans, Amy Barczuk, Stephanie Verdoia (Katie Schoepfer 58’), Rafinha (Suzane Pires 65’), Kristie Mewis, Nkem Ezurike (Morgan Marlborough 74’) Stephanie McCaffrey

Subs not used: Jami Kranich, Bia, Ketlen, Rachel Wood

Houston: Bianca Henninger, Ella Masar, Niki Cross, Stephanie Ochs (Carleigh Williams 19', Stephanie Roche 80'), Meghan Klingenberg, Carli Lloyd, Rachael Axon, Morgan Brian, Tiffany McCarty (Melissa Henderson 69'), Jessica McDonald, Kealia Ohai

Subs not used: Ashley Nick, Megan Kinneman