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Washington Spirit have most of the chances, but fall 1-0 to the Boston Breakers

Midge Purce’s first professional goal kept Washington winless away from home

Tony Quinn

Despite creating plenty of chances in both halves, and the return of Mallory Pugh and Estefania Banini, the Washington Spirit remained winless away from home, falling 1-0 to the Boston Breakers at Jordan Field today. Rookie Midge Purce - who grew up close to the Maryland Soccerplex - scored the game’s only goal in the 72nd minute, firing through traffic after the Spirit were caught unaware by a short corner kick.

Jim Gabarra, known for rotating his lineup on a regular basis, kept the same 11 that beat the Portland Thorns 1-0 last week. However, the bench saw two returns: Pugh made her first appearance in the 18 since suffering an ankle injury with the USWNT, while Banini - days after re-signing with the club after a spell in Spain - completed the bench. Line Sigvardsen Jensen, meanwhile, missed out on Euro 2017 duty with Denmark.

7th: Spirit win a corner, Mewis swings it to the back post where Church’s clever volley seemed destined for goal. Elby headed the ball away on the line

Washington’s best chance of the half was also their first look. From a corner kick, Kristie Mewis swung the ball to the back post for Whitney Church, who lurked entirely unmarked. Church’s clever volley was destined for the back of the net, but Brooke Elby was there to head it off the line.

Corners spelled trouble for Boston even after Church was robbed. A 14th minute service from Mewis found Church again, but she couldn’t turn the ball back across goal. A few minutes later, Solaun’s corner from the other side nearly hooked in for a goal at the back post, with Spirit runners nearly able to get to it as it skipped wide (something that happened again just before halftime). Later in the half, a glorious, driven corner from Mewis whipped through the six yard box, but no one was able to arrive to finish the opportunity.

Boston wasn’t without their looks, though. A 25th minute pass from Tori Huster seemed to catch Meggie Dougherty Howard off guard, and Morgan Andrews pounced to force a turnover. Andrews didn’t have options, but she did have Stephanie Labbe off her line. The rookie decided to have a pop from over 25 yards out, but her looping left-footed effort was pushed over the crossbar in spectacular fashion by Labbe, fresh off of being named to the league’s Team of the Month.

Washington had a smart build-up down the right flank involving Mewis and Cheyna Williams that ended with Estelle Johnson putting a cross into the goalmouth. Havana Solaun arrived in time, but Elby did just enough to prevent her from getting a clean shot away, and Solaun’s effort went right to goalkeeper Sammy Jo Prudhomme.

Late in the half, the Spirit sensed that a goal was there for the taking. Ordega teed Mewis up for a 22 yard shot that arced just over the crossbar, before Williams - latching onto a deflected Mewis shot - had the ball in the back of the net only to be denied by the offside flag.

Pugh came in at halftime for Williams, with Solaun switching flanks to make room for Pugh on the left side. Washington quickly looked to get her involved, but her cross in the opening seconds missed the mark and a through ball from midfield ran a bit too long for her run in behind.

Boston had the best early chance, though, as Rosie White’s wonderful pass appeared to put Natasha Dowie into a great spot. Dowie’s shot bobbled barely wide, but it would have been called back for offside had it tucked inside the post anyway (much to the displeasure of Dowie and the Breakers bench).

Pugh, this time on the right flank, faked Chapman to the ground before driving a cross to the back post that curled barely wide of being a goal itself. Pugh went even closer on the hour mark, surging into the box before powering a shot past Prudhomme only for it to hammer the crossbar and bounce away.

Pugh had another shot at the back post go into the outside netting in the next couple minutes, before Banini marked her return to Washington by subbing in for Mewis. Within a minute, Banini found space on the left, and her pass into the middle caused major chaos before Boston managed to scramble it clear.

Boston was on the back foot, but they took the lead anyway in the 72nd minute. White’s 25 yard blast had plenty of movement, forcing Labbe into a sprawling save. From the ensuing corner, the Breakers took it short, which caught the Spirit by surprise (and not for the first time). The ball was passed quickly to Midge Purce, whose low shot flew through traffic before tucking inside of Labbe’s - who was likely unsighted by the crowd - near post.

Former Spirit winger Tiffany Weimer came off the bench, and nearly made it 2-0 after beating two Spirit defenders along the endline. At the other end, the Spirit - who seemed stunned for several minutes after falling behind - saw Francisca Ordega fire over the bar from an angle in the 79th minute.

Washington saw a bit of bad luck - an uncalled foul on Angela Salem, who tripped Banini up on the edge of the box - nearly turn into the dagger. Boston saw the opportunity to counter, and substitute Ifeoma Onumonu was in behind the defense. Shelina Zadorsky managed to apply just enough pressure, but the Spirit were still breathing a sigh of relief as Onumonu sliced her shot wide.

Washington tried to mount a late comeback, but their best opportunity ended up being a Banini ball into the mixer that no one could quite get a foot to before the Breakers smashed the ball clear of danger. Realistically, though, Purce’s goal took the wind out of Washington’s sails for the most part, and the Breakers held on to their lead rather comfortably.

The Spirit, who with the loss fall into 9th place at the time of publication, will return home for what looks to be a big game for them against the Orlando Pride. With a four-game road swing following next weekend’s match, the Spirit will need to take all three points. That game will be shown nationally on the Lifetime network, with kickoff roughly around 3:50pm.