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Boston Breakers injuries take their toll in 3-1 loss to Houston Dash

The weakened Boston defense couldn’t consistently deal with Houston.

Amy Pearson

Starting XI: Abby Smith, Midge Purce, Julie King, Megan Oyster, Amanda Frisbie, Angela Salem, Amanda Da Costa, Rosie White, Adriana Leon, Natasha Dowie, Ifeoma Onumonu

Natasha Dowie returned to the lineup and Matt Beard made several other changes to his attack as the Boston Breakers took on the Houston Dash at home. Though the Dash were without key players Carli Lloyd and Morgan Brian, the Breakers were similarly weakened with three defenders out, including starters Christen Westphal and Allysha Chapman. On top of that, Boston knew it would be facing Marta and Alex Morgan with the Orlando Pride that weekend. They went into their game against Houston with just four subs, one of them goalkeeper Sammy Jo Prudhomme.

It took Boston a little bit of time to really dig into the game, with Houston going up early in the 10’ off an unassisted Sarah Hagen goal. But to their credit the managed to settle in and begin winning the ball more often in the midfield off of Angela Salem and Rosie White. Either they used Ifeoma Onumonu to stretch the formation and then put the ball into space or they funneled the ball up through White and Dowie, using space that otherwise would have been occupied by Carli Lloyd, who was out with an injured ankle.

Midge Purce contributed as well, once again looking best when she was pushing higher. If she had a lack of awareness on the back line, which sometimes allowed a Houston player to dart in behind, she also had several great penetrating runs to help Boston keep the pressure on, and one such run got Boston the equalizer in the 26’. Pruce had great body movement to earn herself a little space, which let her put in a cross far post. All Natasha Dowie had to do was run onto the ball and nod it in to make it 1-1.

Houston didn’t threaten as much through the rest of the first half as the teams traded off possession. Boston had more chances near the end of the half but it was Houston who had the last chance when Abby Smith was quick off her line to intercept a lone Nichelle Prince. Her interception was called for a foul; Smith got a yellow card and Houston got a free kick on the edge of the 18. Andressinha put it right into the crossbar and the ref whistled for halftime.

Boston started the second half with some searching balls forward, trying to put Natasha Dowie into space. The balls were all a little too much and Boston settled back down, instead resorting to better possession. Well, trying to. No sooner would they break up a Houston attack than they would put the ball into a Houston player and have to start all over again.

One of their better spells of ball movement was in the 57’ as Boston pulled everything left and then hit it into space for Onumonu on the right. Onumonu was almost in by herself, having to beat one defender, but the defender deflected it out for a corner.

Houston kept pressing forward though and scored their second of the night in the 64’, with Janine Beckie open in the box despite two defenders nearby. Beckie was able to take time to set up on the ball and roof it to make it 2-1.

Boston made two subs to change it up, pulling Natasha Dowie in the 67’ for Katie Stengel, and then Angela Salem in the 69’ for Morgan Andrews.

Stengel didn’t make that much of a difference as the highest forward; she took too many touches on the ball to get set and wasn’t finding her teammates in space in front of the 18.

Midge Purce made another big run in the 76’, the speed of it opening up a huge gap between Houston’s dropping midfield and forwards still pushing high, which allowed Morgan Andrews to get in there and recover when Purce was dispossessed at speed. The ball went to Leon, but her low, hard shot was saved by Jane Campbell.

Houston scored their goal in the 78’ as they pushed into the box on the right side, the defense did a bad job of covering the cross, and Smith’s attempt to push the ball out wasn’t followed up by a blue Jersey. Houston’s Sarah Hagen was there to bury the ball.

Boston’s final sub was in the 85’ as Amanda Da Costa came off for Tiffany Weimer. Da Costa was not the force that Morgan Andrews normally is in her position, although she did help break up some play in the middle. But she wasn’t a match for Houston’s Andressinha and Boston’s midfield possession was lacking, putting them in a constant state of recovery and transition.

The game ended at 3-1, sure to be a disappointment for a Boston side hoping to take advantage of a Houston without Carli Lloyd or Morgan Brian. They won’t have any such luck in terms of personnel when Orlando come to town for the next game, led by a red-hot Alex Morgan and Marta.

“We’ve just got too many injuries at the moment and it’s killing us,” said Beard after the game. Not only were Brooke Elby, Christen Westphal, and Allysha Chapman out, but Midge Purce was also playing with a hamstring strain, as was Da Costa. None of the injured defenders are expected to be back for Orlando, although Chapman will be judged on a game-by-bame basis. The injuries to Boston’s defense eventually told on the team and unless they get back at least one of their starters this weekend, they’re looking forward to a game where they have even less control than they did against Houston.