The Breakers suffered their first home loss to an impressive and hungry St. Louis side. In the 44th minute, Athletica forward Eniola Aluko blasted one past Boston keeper Kristin Luckenbill, securing the visitors’ 1-0 win.
Saint Louis improved to 4-3-2 (14 points) and moved into second place. Boston (3-4-2, 11 points) remains tied with two other teams for third place.
Maybe it was Aluko’s shot in the 9th minute that was a premonition of how this game would play itself out for the Breakers. She carried the ball down the sideline, moving deftly around defender Mitts, and hit a scorcher into the side netting that stuck firmly into the side netting. Like that shot, it was hard for the Breakers to shake St. Louis free in the first half. They challenged hard and consistently, beating the home side to many balls and either forcing a turnover or slowing game play.
And the Breakers’ frustration was evident, especially when Smith collected the first yellow card of the evening in the 28th minute after taking Aluko down hard on the right side of the field. Jennie Nobis would be granted the second for dangerous play in the penalty area, after going up a little too aggressively for a head ball, taking down Athletica defender Kia McNeill in the process.
The Breakers threatened again in the 34th minute, when Kristine Lilly ran the ball up the sideline to cross it perfectly in front of the mouth of the goal. Breakers forward Schmedes leaned forward to hit it with her head, but missed her chance to make contact.
In the 44th minute St. Louis defender Kendell Fletcher carried the ball uncontested, sending it soaring over the Breakers’ defense. Aluko won the foot race, and then placed it hard and low past Luckenbill. The Breakers’ keeper went down and tried to get a hand on it, but the ball was too well struck. And when Athletica’s hands went up in unison in celebration, the Breakers’ heads dropped in dismay.
Boston’s Amy Rodriguez almost tied it up moments after the goal. Alex Scott forwarded the ball to Rodriguez, who sent the ball wide.
But it was the second half that brought life to the Breakers, who registered nine shots. Lilly chatted up Rodriguez on the sidelines about timing her runs, while Luckenbill shuffled up and down the sideline, clapping her gloves together. And that would be the most movement Luckenbill would have for the final 45 minutes, since the Breakers applied hard pressure throughout most of it. Kelly Smith reignited the attack in the 47th minute, crossing the ball to Lilly waiting at the top of the 18’. The Boston captain eluded a defender to put a shot hard, low, but wide past Solo.
Even Breakers defenders got in on the action, with Scott and LePeilbet making excellent runs up the sidelines and through the midfield, respectively. One of Boston’s best chances came when Rodriguez beat an Athletica defender in a tackle. Rodriguez dribbled it into the 18’ with the defender hot on her heels, but then made a high cross past the front of the goal that was easily cleared by the Athletica backline. In stoppage time, Hucles got a high ball to a waiting Smith, but the Englishwoman couldn’t put it past a solid Solo, who controlled her 18’ with perfection all night long.
Boston out shot Saint Louis 17-7. Solo made four saves on the night and collected her fourth shutout of the season.
“I was proud of the way we responded,” said Boston head coach Tony DiCicco about the team’s effort after giving up the goal. “We defended well, but today we had a breakdown and it cost us. Give Saint Louis credit. They got the goal and defended it well.”
“We are creating the chances, we just need to score,” said DiCicco.
Angela Tavares, Goal.com
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