The Boston Breakers scored halfway through the first half, and Washington equalized just six minutes into the second half, but the Breakers held on for the 1-1 tie Saturday night in front of 4,027 at the Maryland SoccerPlex. With the draw, the Breakers remain unbeaten at 2-0-2.
"We had some good chances at the end. It would’ve been nice to take home the win, but we’ll take the tie on the road," Breakers Head Coach Lisa Cole said.
In other action Saturday, FC Kansas City lost, 2-1, to Western New York, allowing the Breakers to move into second place in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) table. Sky Blue FC beat the Seattle Reign, 2-0, and are now level on points with Portland. Both teams are in first place with 10 points.
The Breakers fought off some early pressure from the Spirit, who were looking for their first win of the season. Heather O’Reilly had a couple of great opportunities early, but Washington keeper Ashlyn Harris was on her game and denied any scoring opportunity early on. But on 24 minutes, the Breakers put one past Harris. It began when Lianne Sanderson came into the right side of the box. Without a clear look on goal, she quickly turned on her defender. She found Joanna Lohman unmarked 10 yards from goal. Lohman one-timed her shot past Harris for her first goal of the NWSL season. It was Sanderson’s league-best third assist.
Lianne Sanderson picked up her league-leading third assist vs. Washington
"It was a really good goal," Cole said. "It was a good piece of soccer and a good finish by Jo."
For Sanderson and Lohman, it couldn’t have been scripted any better. The duo played for DC United Women last year in the USL W-League. This was their first trip back to the Maryland SoccerPlex.
After Lohman’s goal, forward Katie Schoepfer had two chances at doubling the Breakers lead before the first half ended, but was unlucky. Her first shot was blocked in front of goal and second, a rocket of a shot, went just wide of Harris.
The Spirit (0-2-3) tied the game in the 51st minute. Lori Lindsey found a bit of space at the top of the box and unleashed a shot that hit the upper corner of the net, far past the outstretched arms of Breakers keeper Ashley Phillips, to tie the game at 1-1.
Breakers keeper Ashley Phillips comes off her line to break up a Washington threat
The Breakers found themselves defending the attack just past the hour mark. The back line of Jo Dragotta, Cat Whitehill, Melinda Mercado, and Julie King made some heads-up plays to steer Washington away from goal and keep the game tied. Phillips, meanwhile, came up big, cutting down crosses and corner kicks, and in the 80th minute made a crucial save on a sharply driven ball by Lindsey. Just minutes later, O’Reilly sent a cross that zipped past Kyah Simon, on the edge of the six-yard box, and went right to Sydney Leroux, but Leroux’s shot went over the bar.
The Spirit nearly hit the game-winner in the 89th minute, but Phillips made a spectacular diving save on a shot in close by Caroline Miller, preserving the 1-1 tie.
"I think Ashley did a good job again," Cole said. "She was coming in and clearing some good crosses and saving some good crosses. I also thought our defense was good again today once they settled in."
The Breakers starting XI vs. Washington (back row, left to right: Mariah Nogueira, Julie King, Cat Whitehill, Ashley Phillips, Sydney Leroux, Melinda Mercado; front row, left to right: Jo Dragotta, Heather O'Reilly, Lianne Sanderson, Joanna Lohman, Katie Schoeper)
Notes: Defender Melinda Mercado made her NWSL debut, playing all 90 minutes at center back. She started in place of Kia McNeill, who was a late scratch due to a muscle strain and was taken out of the lineup as a precautionary measure. "I thought (Mercado) was good. She was a little tentative on the ball at first, but certainly disrupted Washington. It was a good performance for her first start," Breakers Head Coach Lisa Cole said ... Sydney Leroux still leads the NWSL in goals scored (4) despite two goals from Abby Wambach in Western New York’s win over FC Kansas City ... Lianne Sanderson now has an assist in three straight games, the only player in the NWSL currently on that streak ... The Breakers lead the league in goals scored (8) and are tied for second on fewest goals allowed (4) ... Keeper Ashley Phillips improved to 1-0-2 and has yet to lose at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Her last appearance there (May 10, 2010), the Breakers played to a 0-0 draw against Washington Freedom ... The Breakers improved to 3-1-2 all time at the Maryland SoccerPlex and haven’t lost there since 2009, a defeat to the Freedom.