Breakers remain in playoff hunt with 5-2 win over Washington

Five players score in Saturday's victory

The Boston Breakers got a goal each from Heather O’Reilly, Lianne Sanderson, Rhian Wilkinson, Mariah Nogueira, and captain Cat Whitehill to defeat the Washington Spirit, 5-2, Saturday night in front of 2,607 at the Maryland SoccerPlex. The Breakers improved to 6-7-5 and moved into fifth place with the win.

"It was a great team effort," Boston Breakers Head Coach Lisa Cole said. "We talked about not relying on one person to score and how we need to share the responsibility, and we lived up to that today. We want to make sure we do a good job and put ourselves in a position (for the playoffs). We put all our heart and effort into this. And getting the three points and making up the goal differential was important. Giving up three goals (Wednesday to FC Kansas City) was disheartening. We were disappointed with the last few games, but we lost to good teams. We felt that we’re not in (complete) control of our own destiny, but we’ll go out and be proud of how we perform over the last five games, and represent Boston, the organization, and ourselves well. And you saw that in this game."

Despite the lop-sided scoreline, the Breakers had to come back to win this match. The Spirit, who had not scored in the run of play since May 18, went ahead 1-0 just 78 seconds into the match off a goal by Diana Matheson. The Canadian midfielder took advantage of open space and went one on one with Breakers keeper Ashley Phillips before scoring to put Washington up, 1-0. But the Breakers quickly countered.

In the 5th minute, midfielder Heather O’Reilly teed up a cross and dropped it into the box, right to midfielder Mariah Nogueira. The rookie out of Stanford headed the ball past Washington keeper Ashlyn Harris for her third goal of the season. Nogueira is tied for second in the league (with Seattle Reign FC’s Christine Nairn) in goals scored by NWSL college draft picks. FC Kansas City’s Erika Tymrak leads all draftees with six goals.

Rhian Wilkinson scored a goal and had an assist in Saturday’s win (Photo by Mike Gridley)

The Breakers took the lead in the 42nd minute. Canadian defender/midfielder Rhian Wilkinson played a header from one side of the box to the other, right to Lianne Sanderson, and Sanderson slid to get her foot on it and knock it past Harris. It was Sanderson’s third goal of the season, tying her for third on the team in goals scored with Nogueira. For Wilkinson, it was her first assist of the season.

It didn’t take long for the Breakers to build on their lead in the second half. Just three minutes in, Wilkinson scored her first goal in the National Women’s Soccer League. Sanderson played a ball out wide to O’Reilly, who then crossed it into the box. The ball came loose, and midfielder Joanna Lohman fired a shot on goal, but Harris was there to make the stop, only to bobble the ball when she tried to collect it. Wilkinson came racing in and hit it into the goal to put Boston ahead, 3-1.

"Rhian’s done a great job. She’s been playing in a different spot the last couple games, and for her to fight to get that assist was important for her and then she got a goal, which was great," Cole said.

In the 57th minute, the Breakers were awarded a penalty, and O’Reilly stepped up, took the PK, and buried it past Harris to put Boston ahead, 4-1. For O’Reilly, it was her fourth goal of the season, second best on the team, and the most she’s scored in a single season in her professional soccer career.

The Spirit (1-12-4) got one back in the 73rd minute when German international Conny Pohlers headed in a cross by Stephanie Ochs to make it a 4-2 game.

The Breakers capped the scoring in the 78th minute. After a scramble in the Spirit box following a Boston corner kick, Breakers defender and captain Cat Whitehill latched onto the loose ball and hit it past Harris for her first goal of the season and to make it a 5-2 game.

The five goals scored were significant in more ways than one. It tied a franchise high for goals scored in a game, matching the only other time the Breakers put five goals on the board, a 5-2 victory on June 22, 2002, against the New York Power in a Women’s United Soccer Association game. The five goals also gave the Breakers 29 goals scored on the season, tying first-place FC Kansas City for most goals scored in the league.

The Breakers remain hot on the trail of fourth-place Western New York. The Flash currently hold the fourth and final playoff spot, with a 7-4-6 record (27 points). The Flash next play on Wednesday, at home against Washington. The Flash then play at Boston, before finishing with three home games: Seattle (Aug. 7), Portland (Aug. 10), and Boston (Aug. 17).

The Chicago Red Stars, meanwhile, are one point back of Boston and in sixth place. The Red Stars (6-7-4, 22 points) play at Portland Sunday. They finish the season with games at home against Seattle (Aug. 3), at Washington (Aug. 7), at home vs. Sky Blue FC (Aug. 10), and at FC Kansas City (Aug. 18).

The Breakers schedule from here on out looks like this: home vs. Western New York (Aug. 3), home vs. Portland (Aug. 7), home vs. FC Kansas City (Aug. 10), and at Western New York (Aug. 17).

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