It was highly difficult to watch the Spirit play the Breakers because the feed went out entirely on a couple of different occasions, and, for most of the second half, one could only see a few seconds at a time of action before the feed would stop, and pick up again seconds later. It was highly difficult to listen to the Spirit play the Breakers, because the commentary team appeared to do little to no research on either team involved. They mispronounced names on both sides, suggested that the Spirit actually play in Washington, DC., and often started to make a point about something before trailing off into a mumble. And that's just for starters. Still, I was able to make a few observations.
The Spirit began the match in a 4-4-1-1 formation. Ashlyn Harris was the goalkeeper. The defenders (R to L) were Ali Krieger, Robin Gayle, Tori Huster, and Kika Toulouse. The midfielders (R to L) were Ingrid Wells, Lori Lindsey, Julia Roberts, and Stephanie Ochs. Diana Matheson played underneath Tiffany McCarty, with a bit of freedom to go wherever she wanted, often ending up out on the wing or even more advanced than McCarty.
McCarty scored the first goal of the match in the 15th minute. Ingrid Wells crossed from the right, and McCarty beat Breakers goalkeeper Ashley Phillips with a downward header that bounced up into the roof of the net. The Spirit looked like earning all three points before Sydney Leroux collected a pass in the area from substitute Libby Guess and beat Harris to the far post in stoppage time of the 2nd half. The 1-1 draw represents the first point for both teams in their inaugural NWSL campaign, and both teams will probably feel like they might have won on another day.
On the whole, the Breakers looked like the better team by a small measure. Leroux looked threatening, though she was chased down by Krieger on what should have been a breakaway, and Heather O'Reilly put in her usual energetic shift at right midfield. The Breakers seemed to generate more chances than the Spirit, though not that many on goal, and up until the Leroux goal, I had a feeling the equalizer was coming.
The Spirit's formation was different than I expected after having seen them in the preseason. I did not expect to see Wells deployed in a wide midfield role, though she did perform well there. I think the 4-4-1-1 was meant to limit the pressure put on Toulouse at left back, though the Breakers still primarily attacked that side of the field with O'Reilly and right back Rhian Wilkinson.
Matheson was the Woman of the Match for me, and she probably would have scored herself had Phillips not tipped a long range shot onto the bar. Harris made a couple of vital stops, including smothering a 2nd half Leroux effort in the area that resulted in a collision and left her prone on the ground holding her knee. She was able to continue. Krieger completes the strongest performance trifecta for the team, which was expected and necessary tonight. The defense as an entirety did well enough, though I'm not really confident in Gayle at center back, and a more competent attack would have punished the backline.
In the end, an away draw in the first game ever for the Spirit is nothing to thumb one's nose at. There's certainly potential in the attack, especially if Caroline Miller, who made a substitute appearance tonight, is more involved as the season goes along.