For the second game in a row, the Washington Spirit dropped points on the road, tying the Boston Breakers 1-1 on Friday night. It was a frustrating evening for the Spirit who scored an important early goal via Katie Stengel in the 13th minute only to concede a penalty kick converted by Louise Schillgard just two minutes later. An often scrappy game was played before 4,007 fans at Harvard's Jordan Field.
The Spirit struggled with connecting passes and capitalizing on their chances in the final third. The Breakers pressed the Spirit and controlled the center, especially in the first half. Washington turned to playing direct which only made things worse. Washington did without normal starters Diana Matheson and Stephanie Labbe, with Spirit head coach Jim Gabarra explaining that both were left out mainly due to playing two games with Canada during the international break
"I think we were not patient, that’s something we addressed at halftime. We felt like we needed to be more patient and play quicker and keep it on the floor," Spirit head coach Jim Gabarra said.
After a nearly three-week span without games and USWNT and Canadian internationals being away for two weeks, the Spirit lacked the sort of chemistry up front that led them to success at the start of the season.
"It wasn’t the same kind of chemistry and instinct play that we had the previous six games," Gabarra said after the game, "I think everyone gets anxious and wants to do a little too much or impact the game individually and we get a bit off track."
Lineup: Kelsey Wys; Ali Krieger ©, Megan Oyster, Shelina Zadorsky, Alyssa Kleiner; Joanna Lohman (Cheyna Williams 81), Tori Huster, Christine Nairn; Crystal Dunn, Katie Stengel (Francisca Ordega 69), Cali Farquharson (Estefania Banini 62)
After an uneasy stretch to start the game, Washington still got themselves on the board first. In the 13th minute, Crystal Dunn’s cross from the right flank was blocked, only for Joanna Lohman to collect the rebound. The former Breaker forced goalkeeper Libby Stout into a save, but in the chaos the ball rolled to Stengel, who scored her second goal of the season by tucking the ball into the lower corner.
Less than a minute later, rookie forward Cali Farquharson took down Boston's Brooke Elby as the Breakers surged upfield. Whether or not the foul was in the box is a subject of debate but referee Margaret Domka awarded Boston a penalty kick. Schillgard calmly converted the penalty kick, tying the game in the 15th minute. The goal was only Boston's second of the entire season.
While possession was even for the rest of the first half, the Spirit had more chances in front of goal. Christine Nairn delivered an excellent corner kick in the 25th minute which Stout punched away. Five minutes later, Stengel had a great opportunity but was ruled offside. Dunn was forced to play more defensively as the Spirit had trouble connecting through the midfield and finding their forwards without a long ball.
The physical play continued in the second half and less than two minutes into the half, Spirit defender Shelina Zadorsky took down Stephanie McCaffrey inside the box, an incident that Breakers head coach Matt Beard felt merited a second penalty kick call. Both coaches frequently voiced their frustration with the referees but made conciliatory remarks in the press conference afterwards.
Estefania Banini and Francisca Ordega each came on in the second half and helped provide more chances in the final third. Banini’s shot in the 65th minute was on target but was saved by Stout and ten minutes later defender Julie King blocked Lohman’s close-range shot following a cutback from Banini. The Spirit created more opportunities in the second half, but they were not necessarily higher quality looks. Ordega, making her season debut, fed Dunn a great pass in the 80th minute but Dunn’s shot in the box - when one on one with Stout - went just wide.
Throughout the game, the Spirit sunk to Boston's level of play and allowed the game to become physical and direct. The team struggled to connect and to break down the Breakers’ backline.
"Every player on the field tonight was frustrated. We felt like we created enough chances to get three points," Gabarra said.