New England Soccer Today

Thorns in their Sides

SOMERVILLE, Mass. – The Boston Breakers fell to the Portland Thorns, 2-1, at Dilboy Stadium on Sunday evening in front of 2,978 fans, their second biggest all-time crowd as an NWSL team.

Many of those fans came to see Alex Morgan lead the Thorns and were rewarded, as she notched a goal and an assist to help beat the Breakers, who opened up the scoring in the 13th minute via Lianne Sanderson.

The loss snaps the Breakers’ four-game unbeaten streak and puts serious doubt over whether or not they will make the playoffs. On Sunday, the Breakers, who are now seven points out of playoff position in sixth place, did not look like a team ready to compete in the post-season.

Photo Credit: Italo Alexander Photography

Photo Credit: Italo Alexander Photography

The theme to Boston’s play was giveaways, sloppy passing, and indecision in the final third. Boston played like a group of strangers on the field, rather than a team that has competed in 16 games together.

Nevertheless, the Breakers started positively. Sanderson scored by controlling a ten-yard pass from Kyah Simon and then volleying the ball into the back of the net past Karina Leblanc for her second goal of the season.

“We scored and we’ll take that, but it’s a very disappointing result in the end,” explained Sanderson. “We can a lot of positives from it. We still have to work harder to make the playoffs, which we’re not out of by any means.”

Ashley Phillips and some luck briefly kept the Breakers in the game as the Thorns took over immediately after Sanderson’s goal. Phillips knocked away a low drive by Tobin Heath in the 16th minute and the watched as Christine Sinclair side-footed a shot off the crossbar less than sixty seconds later.

Morgan finally broke through in the 23rd minute, getting in behind the defense off a long, searching ball from Rachel Buehler. Phillips came out too far to meet Morgan, who wasn’t even in the penalty area when she rounded the Boston goalkeeper and tucked away an easy finish into an open net.

In the second half, the Thorns tired out the Breakers in midfield. More of Boston’s passes didn’t reach their intended targets and few attacks yielded good chances on goal. Mariah Nogueira had shot cleared off the line off a corner in the 64th minute and in the 67th minute, Heather O’Reilly played through Sydney Leroux, who had a shot from close range saved by Leblanc.

Morgan helped Portland win the game late in the second half, setting up a give and go between Sinclair and Meleana Shim that led to the winning goal. Shim controlled a layoff by Sinclair before firing a shot that rolled into the back of the net off the left post.

“We got caught again late in the game. They were pressing. We tried pressing to get the win at home. They got an opportunity and took it well. We just need to be a little bit better,” Breakers head coach Lisa Cole said. “I think on some of our set pieces, we had some good chances. Within the run of play, maybe a couple, but not as many as we would’ve liked.”

With six games left, the Breakers will try to make up ground in the league standings at the Washington Spirit on July 27.

“It’s a pretty disheartening loss,” captain Cat Whitehill said. “Fortunately, we’re playing a lot of (teams) ahead of us, so we can win those games. This is a tough loss for us, but we’ve got a quick turnaround.”

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