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Spirit, Breakers back-and-forth ends in 2-2 draw

It came down to the very last seconds of the match as the Washington Spirit (4-9-4, 16 points) and Boston Breakers (3-7-7, 16 points) alternated goals to finish in a 2-2 draw. Although both teams are lucky to walk away with a point as neither team was able to finish last second game-winning chances, neither team is likely to be pleased with the results. As the NWSL is now in its final third of its 2017 season, both teams needed a full three points if they want any hope of finishing anywhere other than the bottom of the table. As is, the teams remained tied for points with 16, preventing either from gaining much ground on seventh-ranked Houston.

The Washington Spirit arguably has more reason to be disappointed with only one point, as they were the better side for the majority of the game and put 11 shots on goal to the Breaker’s three. Abby Smith, in another player of the match-worthy performance by the goalkeeper, made nine saves to prevent the Spirit from earning another victory. Washington also struggled with finishing, as they had three shots deflect off the crossbar—including a potential game winner in the final minute of second-half stoppage time—and several more that were off target.

The Spirit came out in clear control of the game, controlling possession and dictating the speed of play in the game’s opening 25 minutes. During that time they took an early lead, with Estelle Johnson capitalizing on a nearly nonexistent Breakers defense to first move into scoring position, only to see Smith block her first shot, and then to have the time and space to knock the rebound in to score in just the seventh minute. The Spirit nearly doubled their lead minutes later, but Arielle Ship sent her shot just wide of goal.

The first half began to even out about midway through, with Boston making multiple trips into their attacking half and testing Haracic with attempts to set up goal-scoring plays. Rosie White did test DiDi Haracic, starting in net in place of Steph Labbé, with one low shot, but Haracic jumped on the ball to deny her. Other than that, the Breakers looked relatively harmless until the final minute of first-half regulation when Katie Stengel, ball at her feet, was sandwiched by a pair of Spirit players, sending the ball over to Adriana Leon, who fired off a close-range shot to level the score at the half.

Neither team relinquished much control in the second half, resulting in end-to-end action for the entire final 45 minutes. Neither team did much of note in the opening minutes of the half, but then a Spirit free kick unleashed an onslaught of shots on goal for the home side. A free kick by Mallory Pugh in the 58th minute nearly resulted in a goal, but the resulting shot from Shelina Zadorsky deflected off the chest of teammate Tori Huster and fell to where Smith pounced on it. Moments later Smith looked to have prevented another Spirit goal when she tipped a shot from Estefania Banini back into play, only to have Cheyna Williams in the right place at the right time to head Smith’s rebound in to retake the lead for the Spirit.

Substitute Kristie Mewis nearly made it 3-1 for the Spirit in the 76th minute when she blasted a rocket from the top of the 18, but Smith dove to parry the shot away in what may likely be a Save of the Week contender. Thanks to Smith’s impressive goalkeeping, the Spirit were not the next to score, but her Breakers were, as Margaret Purce, playing right back in the wake of multiple injuries to Boston defenders, connected with Ifeoma Onumonu, who then sent in a perfect ball for Leon. Leon timed her run to just stay onside before breaking into space right in front of the goal, where she took a couple of touches before slotting the ball past Haracic to equalize for Boston once more.

From the 90th minute on, there were four total shots, two a side, as both teams fought to be the sole owner of the game’s points. Huster fired a long-range shot on target, only to have Smith get enough of a touch on it to make the save. Onumonu countered with a shot of her own, but she put too much power into it and sent it high of the crossbar. The Spirit then hit the crossbar for the final time, followed by Rosie White sending a shot inches just wide seconds before the final whistle blew.

At the end of the match, both teams looked defeated, clearly unhappy with the day’s result. The Breakers will look to make a quick turnaround, next hosting the Houston Dash in a midweek matchup on Wednesday, August 16. The Spirit are one of four teams to not play on Wednesday, instead traveling to North Carolina to take on the Courage on Saturday, August 19 in next weekend’s Lifetime Game of the Week.

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