The Boston Breakers put the pressure on the Western New York Flash with an early two-goal lead, but a pair of second-half goals by the Flash ended the match in a 2-2 tie Saturday night at Dilboy Stadium in Somerville, Mass.
"It’s a bit unlucky for us, a bit unfortunate, and we’re very disappointed, but the silver lining, if there is any, is that we’re not out (of playoff contention) yet," said interim coach and defender Cat Whitehill. "We’re in the playoff hunt, and we’re going to come right back Wednesday (vs. Portland). I think we played really well (tonight). I’m proud of this team. We came out playing with each other, going up the field together, coming back down the field together, and I just felt it was such a team effort."
The Breakers celebrate Lianne Sanderson's second-half goal (Photo by Mike Gridley)
The Breakers (6-7-6) slid down to sixth place after Chicago (7-7-5) handed Seattle Reign FC a 3-1 loss Saturday night, eliminating Seattle from playoff contention. A loss would’ve ended Boston’s playoff hopes, but the Breakers still can clinch the fourth and final playoff spot in the National Women’s Soccer League. The Breakers need to: win all three remaining games on their schedule, the Flash to lose all three of their final regular season games, and Chicago to lose or draw once in their final three games in order to reach the playoffs.
In front of a sellout crowd of 2,899, the Breakers jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute. Australian Kyah Simon latched onto a curling cross from Whitehill and beat Western New York keeper Adrianna Franch to give Boston the early advantage. For Whitehill, it was her first assist of the season.
The game got physical with each team battling for every ball, and both teams pressured each other in the final third. Western New York had a chance to level the match in the 23rd minute, but Carli Lloyd’s shot off a cross from Adriana sailed over the bar. In the 27th minute, Breakers defender Jazmyne Avant did well to keep pace with Western New York’s Samantha Kerr, sliding to break up the Australian forward in the box.
Rhian Wilkinson and Carli Lloyd brace for a Breakers corner (Photo by Mike Gridley)
The Breakers put two great shots on goal, one each by Sydney Leroux and Heather O’Reilly, in a three-minute span later in the first half but neither found the back of the net. The Flash countered in the 41st minute when Kerr rocketed a shot on goal, but Breakers keeper Alyssa Naeher made a tremendous save. In the 44th minute, Lianne Sanderson forced Franch to make a diving stop as the Breakers tried doubling their lead.
The Flash (8-4-7) had a golden opportunity in the 50th minute when Kerr sidestepped Naeher, who came well off her line for the challenge, but Kerr’s shot on an open goal went over the bar.
In the 65th minute, the Breakers took a 2-0 advantage when Sanderson scored her fourth goal of the season. Her shot from the top of the box after a scramble that came off a corner kick beat Franch to her left.
The Flash responded in the 77th minute when Vicki DiMartino flicked a shot over Naeher from inside the box to pull within one. The Breakers were down a player as Mariah Nogueira had come off with an injury. She later returned, but not until the Flash had scored their first goal of the game. They tied the match in the 85th minute when Lloyd smashed a shot past Naeher, off an assist from Sarah Huffman.
The Breakers return to action Wednesday, Aug. 7, at 7 p.m. ET to take on Portland Thorns FC for the third and final time this regular season. In the previous two meetings, Boston won, 2-0, in Portland on July 6, and lost, 2-1, at home on July 21.
The Breakers round out their home schedule Saturday, Aug. 10, at 6 p.m. ET against FC Kansas City, featuring Hanson, Mass. native and Boston College alum Kristie Mewis. Boston’s last regular season game is set for Saturday, Aug. 17, at Western New York, a match that will air live on Fox Soccer Channel.
To purchase tickets to Boston Breakers home games, visit www.breakerstickets.com or by calling 617-945-1704. You can also purchase 2014 season tickets.