In the last game on Saturday of Week 8 of NWSL play, the Boston Breakers took on the Orlando Pride in a clash between two squads that were still looking to distinguish themselves from the pack in the middle of the NWSL table. After a promising couple of weeks, Boston was coming off of a 2-0 defeat at the hands of the Portland Thorns, and the Pride were coming off of a tough 2-1 loss at Sky Blue FC. Both teams had streaks of solid play, but as the midway point of the season vastly approaches both squads were looking to right their respective ships in order to set the stage for a late season push. The Pride were still without their starting keeper Ashlyn Harris (out with a hip injury for up to 8 weeks), and the Breakers were looking to push past a squad that has firepower up front with Brazilian superstar Marta, but still some questions as to the sturdiness of their back-line.
In a series of events that greatly mirrored Boston’s defeat from Portland in the previous week, the Pride started the match so completely on the front foot that in the 8th minute Marta found space behind the Boston back-line. Going off her line, Boston keeper Abby Smith slid into Marta’s feet in an attempt for the ball, and she was given a yellow card and an Orlando penalty kick for her troubles. Marta had no trouble putting the penalty away, and Orlando found themselves up a goal in the early onset, 1-0. It wasn’t long before Orlando utilized this quick momentum shift to push for a second goal, doubling their lead in the 13th minute when Camila crossed a perfect ball to Jasmyne Spencer, who had no trouble slotting the ball past Smith to put it in the back of the net.
This is the second time in as many weeks that Boston has found themselves two goals down before the first 20 minutes of the game had passed, and while they are able to claw themselves back into competitive play, they have to be concerned with their inability to maintain focus and intensity while feeling out their opponents’ formations, and making the necessary adjustments to now allow that insecurity turn into goals against them. Ultimately in the first half Orlando out-possessed Boston 63%-37%, and the half finished with a 2-0 scoreline that favored the hosts.
Trying to make a change
Boston came out more confidently in the second half, and they were able to control a bit more of the midfield with their core of Rose Lavelle and Angela Salem. However, Lavelle struggled to make as much of an impact on the game as in previous matches, with Orlando doing their best to shut her deeply impressive dribbling skills at every turn. To their credit, Boston committed numbers forward for much of the second half, but they couldn’t put the strategy together to become truly dangerous in front of goal. For their part, Orlando’s offense kept searching for a true insurance goal, with Marta being as essential as ever to the Pride attack. Ultimately, the continuously impressive play of Smith and the defensive effort put in by Boston assured that this match would end only 2-0. The Pride found a definite victory in their attempt to consistently compete for points, and the Breakers kept looking for answers as how to make sure their squad is at every advantage during the first 20 minutes of each match.