July 24, 2011

Breakers and Flash Battle to 2-2 Tie

In one of the most exciting matches thus far in the WPS season, the Boston Breakers and Western New York Flash played to a 2-2 draw in Cambridge. Both teams scored in the last 10 minutes and it was a match that national team players contributed heavily, as did players off the bench.

Kelley O'Hara scored a brace and it looked to be enough when she gave Boston a 2-1 lead with just over six minutes remaining, but Alex Morgan tied it just three minutes later with a brilliant goal.

Western New York held the edge in possession and territory early on, but it was Boston who created the better chances. In the 10th minute, Katie Schoepfer played the ball ahead on the right side for Alex Scott. She crossed the ball into the penalty area, but it led Liz Bogus just a little too much and she was unable to redirect it toward the net.

Boston did get the first goal just 10 minutes later. It was again Schoepfer starting the play as she sent a diagonal ball to Kelley O'Hara. The ball just barely got by a diving Whitney Engen and O'Hara had inside position on Ali Riley. O'Hara steered a rolling shot back across to the right. Flash goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris appeared to be wrong-footed on the play and the ball got by her, into the right corner of the net to make it 1-0.

Western New York continued to pressure and nearly broke through in the 36th minute. Riley sent a beautiful cross to McCall Zerboni at the six, but the Flash midfielder put her header wide of the goal.

The Flash tied the match in the 38th minute with Becky Edwards sending the ball ahead to Marta who was heading to the left side of the penalty area. Marta was able to settle the ball, and gain some space from defender Scott in the process. She set up her left-footed shot and drilled it low past Alyssa Naeher and into the right side netting to tie the match.

USWNT forward Alex Morgan subbed in to start the second half for Western New York and she made her presence known. In the 59th minute, she drove a 25-yard shot right at Naeher. Somehow, the ball got through the Breakers' keeper and rolled toward the goal line, but Naeher was able to dive back just in time before the ball crossed. Later, Yael Averbuch put her shot from inside the 18 just wide of the right post.

Boston took the lead in the 84th minute in a beautiful display of passing. Alex Scott crossed the ball from 35 yards out to Nikki Marshall who was cutting diagonally across the penalty area from left to right. With a defender on her, Marshall was unable to control the ball immediately, but ran it down on the right side of the penalty area.

With the ball rolling toward the endline, she was able to turn her body and direct her cross back to O'Hara. O'Hara passed it to 2nd half substitute Claire Zimmeck who touched it right back to O'Hara on a give-and-go. O'Hara's finish was perfectly inside the left post to give Boston a late 2-1 lead.

But just when it looked like the Breakers might secure three points, it was Alex Morgan who drew the Flash even. Marta sent a 40-yard free kick into the box. Christine Sinclair tried to head it across the box, but the Breakers temporarily cleared it, but not far enough. Another 2nd half substitute, Beverly Goebel, headed the ball back into the box toward Alex Morgan who was waiting near the penalty spot. Morgan hit a beautiful half volley with the outside of her left foot that hit the bottom of crossbar and went into the net. The score was now tied at two.

Western New York threatened again in the last few minutes. Morgan appeared to be behind the defense on a breakaway, but it was called back on a very close offsides. In the 90th minute, Boston defender Elli Reed saved the Breakers by blocking not one, but two Flash shots. First, she blocked Goebel's shot from right in front of Naeher and then the rebound went to Sinclair, who had an open net in front of her, but Reed slid over to block her shot as well.

Both teams gained very valuable point in the standings. Western New York is now 8-2-3 and tied with Philadelphia for first place with 27 points. The Flash have a game in hand on the Independence as well. Boston's record goes to 4-5-4 and they are now in a three-way tie for third place with Sky Blue and magicJack.

Boston hosts Philadelphia in a very important match for both teams on Wednesday night. Western New York's next match is at Sky Blue next Saturday, also crucial to both teams.

WPS Standings
(1) Western New York 8-2-3, 27 pts; (1) Philadelphia 8-3-3, 27 pts; (3) magicJack 5-5-2, 16 pts; (3) Boston 4-5-4, 16 pts; (3) Sky Blue FC 4-5-4, 16 pts; (6) Atlanta 1-10-4, 7 pts.