Kristie Mewis grabbed three points for the Boston Breakers in the dying minutes of their game against the Portland Thorns with a chip over the head of Portland goalkeeper Michelle Betos.
Mewis was knocking all game long, but only managed to grab the game-winning goal with a lofty shot in the 93' after Maddy Evans did her best to battering ram her way through the back line. With Evans fast encroaching on her territory, Betos decided to head the ball away, where it popped free to Mewis, who finished it to earn Boston three points and continue its recent tradition of beating Portland at home.
"I just kept working hard and I knew one would come for me eventually. And our back line did an amazing job. Our midfielders crushed it. I couldn't have asked to play with better players today, and finally I got one at the end, so it was good," said Mewis.
Center back Julie King also emphasized a team performance, saying, "I think everyone just took it upon themselves today to put in the work and held themselves accountable—play their role and not push it off on somebody else. And when that happens, we win."
Coach Tom Durkin said that Portland's first clash against Boston caught him off guard with their use of a 3-6-1, but not today. "They're a quality side so they don't really deviate. They don't adjust to the opponent," he said. Durkin pointed to Allie Long's quiet game as one of the factors in the win. "You saw Allie Long; she really retreated into the back line. It's usually nice combination between Shim and Long and the lone striker that puts them through so I thought our girls did really well in dealing with that."
Thorns coach Paul Riley was candid about his team's performance. "We just didn't penetrate. We just didn't get behind them. I thought Boston defended really well. I thought their back four were very good today. I don't even know if we had many shots on target, to be honest with you."
The Breakers were solid for the great majority of the game, a quality the team has not really demonstrated until now and which Mewis attributed to playing at home. "I think we were really happy and comfortable to be home. We're comfortable here, we practice here," she said. "It's kind of about being a more mature team, so when we go on the road we have to follow our game plan. I think we do it better here, but it's because we feel comfortable here, so now our next step is to kind of be able to bring our game plan when we go away."
The defense clicked nicely with each other and with the midfield, with Barczuk, Schoefper, or Mewis dropping deep when the fullbacks pushed forward to keep the defensive end tight. Center backs Kassey Kallman and Julie King pinched off runs into the box and cleaned up messes that limited Portland's chances in front of goal. "As a line we stuck together," said King. "We talked a lot and [Mollie Pathman] knows to stay with us. She's in her second year, she's got it under control. We talked a lot and we're like, you gotta just stay with us, stay with us, and like I said before Kassey and I felt really good today. We felt really natural and I think we just worked together."
Center midfielder Rafinha shows marked improvement in both match fitness and connectivity and did some good defensive work. Forward Stephanie McCaffrey continues to impress in her willingness to go one on one and create offensive havoc. Goalkeeper Jami Kranich, though not often tested, was called upon to make a few big saves, such as a low diving parry in the 36' that sent the ball just wide of the post.
Coach Durkin said he was "tickled to death beside myself" over Mewis' performance. He also credited Maddy Evans as an impact sub for McCaffrey, who has "an inflamed left great toe," thus her sub in the 77' despite still looking sharp. "Maddy gave us a nice option off the bench in terms of punch," Durkin said. "You know you'll always get a hundred percent out of Maddy."
Durkin was notably enthusiastic during the entire press conference. "The team's slowly growing in confidence," he said. "This win is huge for us on that level."
The Breakers improve to 2-3-0 in handing Portland their first loss of the season and move up to sixth in the league rankings. Their next game is Friday, May 22, against Sky Blue FC.
BOS: Jami Kranich, Lauren Lazo, Julie King (C), Kassey Kallman (C), Mollie Pathman, Amy Barczuk, Katie Schoepfer (C), Kristie Mewis, Rafinha (Suzane Pires, 83), Stephanie McCaffrey (Maddy Evans, 77), Nkem Ezurike (Morgan Marlborough, 62)
Subs not used: Che Brown, Stephanie Verdoia, Rachel Wood
PTFC: Michelle Betos, Kendall Johnson, Kat Williamson, Courtney Niemiec, Emily Menges (Hanna Terry, 92), Kate Bennett (Taylor Comeau, 46), McCall Zerboni, Sinead Farrelly, Allie Long, Meleana Shim, Genoveva Anonma (Sarah Jackson, 68)