New England Soccer Today

Breakers Win, But Eliminated from Playoff Race

Credit: Italo Alexander Photography

Credit: Italo Alexander Photography

SOMERVILLE, Mass.- The Boston Breakers defeated Portland Thorns FC 2-1 at Dilboy Stadium on Wednesday night, but were still eliminated from the NWSL playoff race due to other results around the league.

The Breakers rallied late to defeat the Thorns, as Lianne Sanderson and Heather O’Reilly both scored late in the second half after Portland’s Tiffany Weimer gave the visitors the lead in the 52nd minute. The Breakers improve to 7-7-6, though that will not be enough to carry them into the playoffs with just two games left.

“My first win as a coach,” joked player-coach Cat Whitehill after the game. “Obviously, it’s a little bittersweet since we won but [the Flash won too].”

The Breakers entered the game needing either a win or a tie and for the Western New York Flash to lose or tie versus Seattle Reign FC. But the Flash were able to close out a 1-0 decision in Rochester on Wednesday, which was enough to prevent the Breakers from clinching a berth in the playoffs. Nevertheless, Whitehill is looking forward to the team’s remaining matches.

“We were in quite a hole, it was going to take a lot for us to get out of it,” added Whitehill. “But now we’re going to go for undefeated for the rest of the season. Maybe we can mess up everybody else. I don’t want any losses in my win column as a coach. We still have something to prove.”

The opening moments didn’t bode well for the Thorns. Portland’s potent forward Alex Morgan suffered a left knee injury in the eighth minute and was replaced by Weimer moments later.

“Weimer came in and scored but I’m not going to say Morgan leaving the game didn’t have an effect,” said Whitehill. “But you never want to see that happen.”

Despite missing Morgan, Portland was able to suck the air out of the first half, forcing Boston to chase the ball and try to regain possession. The Thorns nearly opened the scoring in the 26th minute when Christine Sinclair ran into the penalty area, rounded Alyssa Naeher, and then had a shot at an open net cleared off the line by Whitehill.

Portland had another dangerous sequence in the 42nd minute as Nikki Marshall went in alone on Naeher, who blocked her short-range effort from going in. Tobin Heath picked up the rebound and fired at goal, though her shot was knocked away by Kia McNeil. Weimer collected the loose clearance and fired on goal again, though this time the effort was cleared away by Julie King.

Weimer scored her goal early in the second half as she slipped into the penalty area off a pass by Heath and slotted the ball past Naeher to give Boston the lead. Portland’s goal provided Boston with the boost they needed to push upfield and push for the win.

“We wanted to take an aggressive stance from the beginning of the game, and we did a little bit, but it really took that goal for us to be like ‘you know what, we just have to go for it,'” said O’Reilly. “‘No holding back and believe in our abilities– an individual and collective belief from everybody that we’re a talented team.'”

The Breakers took their first steps toward victory when Sanderson equalized in the 68th minute. Kyah Simon played Sydney Leroux into the penalty area, who then laid it off to Sanderson for an easy shot past Portland’s Karina LeBlanc.

The comeback got completed in the 84th minute when O’Reilly controlled a long pass by Whitehill in the penalty area and slotted a shot past LeBlanc for her fifth goal of the season.

“That was a big goal for us,” said O’Reilly. “I’m proud of this team. We displayed a lot today, to fight back. We wish we could have had moments like that the whole season.”

Despite being knocked out of the playoffs, the Breakers will try to play spoilers in the last two games. They play at Kansas City on Aug. 10 before rounding out the season at home against the Flash on Aug. 17.

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