The Boston Breakers (3-6-4, 13 points) managed to hold the second-ranked Chicago Red Stars (7-3-3, 24 points) to a scoreless draw in Boston, no small feat for the team that currently sits just one spot above last place.
Even in a league famous for its parity, the Breakers were more than lucky to earn a point from the Red Stars, who entered the game sitting in second and were the more dangerous side for the majority of the match. That was partly because of a controversial call in the second half that negated a Chicago goal, and partly because of a noteworthy performance by Sammy Jo Prudhomme.
Despite Abby Smith being off the injury report and available for tonight’s match, Prudhomme earned her fourth start and her third consecutive clean sheet, the first Breaker goalkeeper to do so. At the final whistle, Prudhomme had also gone 316 minutes without allowing a goal, the longest amount of time without allowing a goal in NWSL-era Breakers history. The previous record was Abby Smith’s 254 minutes, set earlier this season.
Chicago entered the match looking like the stronger side, but neither goalkeeper was tested in the opening 20 minutes. However, Boston seemed to finally find their rhythm in the 21st minute after Rosie White’s free kick was flicked on goal, only to be stopped by Chicago netminder Alyssa Naeher. The Breakers seemed to come to life after that chance, but they were unable to capitalize on the surge of energy. Christen Westphal had the best opportunity for Boston in the first half, but Naeher was there to deny her.
Sofia Huerta was the biggest thorn in Boston’s side in the opening 45, starting with drawing a foul right outside of the box to earn the Red Stars a free kick dangerously close to goal. Christen Press opted to shoot from there, but Prudhomme was able to make the save.
In the 36th minute, Arin Gilliland sent a ball up to Stephanie McCaffrey, who took a couple of touches before laying it off for Huerta, where she had made a run up the right flank. Huerta sent a shot in on goal, but it lacked power and Prudhomme easily collected it. In the final minute of the half, Huerta again attempted to get on the scoresheet, getting her head on a corner kick, but her header was well off the mark and the game went into the half with neither team able to get on the board.
The second half saw a more dangerous Boston side come out, but the Red Stars entered the second half the same way they did the first. In the first five minutes, both Huerta and Press were able to get good looks on goal, but both of the resulting shots sailed just over the crossbar. The pair would continue taking turns testing Prudhomme, only to have her rise to the occasion every time. At the end of the night, Prudhomme was credited with eight saves.
However, Prudhomme was unable to prevent one ball from getting past her. In the 72nd minute, Prudhomme took a goal kick, but it was short and fell right to Huerta in the Red Stars attacking half. Huerta headed the ball to Danielle Colaprico, who headed it forward, where it bounced between two Breakers defenders before rolling into space. That allowed Press to run onto the ball with only Prudhomme between her and the goal, and she was able to put the ball past a sprawling Prudhomme and into the back of the net. However, the offside flag was raised, Press was ruled offside, and the goal was called back.
Not only did Prudhomme have the offside flag to thank for her clean sheet, but she also had teammate Rosie White, who prevented Taylor Comeau from getting on the score sheet just minutes after the Press non-goal. Press sent a lofted ball into the box, which Prudhomme came well off her line to punch clear of danger. However, Comeau got her head on the ball and sent in on target, but White was able to make a goal-line clearance, heading the ball back over the crossbar to prevent the Red Stars from walking away with three points.
With the draw, Boston earns another much-needed point to help keep them out of last place, while the Red Stars earned enough to move them into first place. However, both the North Carolina Courage and the Washington Spirit, the first and last place teams respectively, play tomorrow, so the results may only be temporary.
Both teams return to the field next Saturday, July 15, with the Red Stars concluding their four-game road series in New Jersey, where they’ll take on Sky Blue FC at 7 p.m. ET. Boston returns to the road, traveling cross country to Memorial Stadium to face the Seattle Reign. Kickoff for that match is 10 p.m. ET.