PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Sky Blue FC and the Boston Breakers played to a 1-1 draw on Sunday afternoon at Yurcak Field that kept the hosts two points ahead of the Breakers for the bottom spot on the NWSL table. Alyssa Naeher made a stretch save on Katy Freels’s penalty in the 86th minute.“I felt like a lot of the corner kicks and stuff that she had been serving in were all kind of whipped in so I was thinking maybe she’ll go that way,” Naeher said. “Then at the last second her plant foot kind of really opened up her hips. So I just kind of went for it and fortunately was able to get a really good push, cover some space, and get to it.”
Sky Blue made an impressive start when Caitlin Foord beat three defenders up the right flank and sent a cross that eluded Naeher. Kelley O’Hara made a back-post run and tapped it home after less than 45 seconds. It marked the second straight game the Breakers went behind early. They conceded after just more than 90 seconds in a Thursday night loss to Seattle. Sky Blue continued as the dominant possession team much of the 1st half but were never able to add another goal.
“We played really well in the 1st half,” Sky Blue coach Jim Gabarra said. “We probably should have had three, four, five, six, or seven goals in the first half hour. As is usually the case with us this year we have to take care of our chances.”
Right after a half hour was up the Breakers equalized on a speculative counterattack through Jazmine Reeves. Kristie Mewis hit a long ball towards Reeves who was blanketed by center backs Lindsi Cutshall and Christie Rampone. Reeves fought through the double team and got off a shot that beat Jillian Loyden and nestled inside the far post.
“I thought it was a pretty brave performance,” Breakers coach Tom Durkin said after scrapping Saturday training to allow his players to recover. The cancelled training meant Bianca Sierra made her Breakers’ debut at right back without having ever trained with the club. The result was a mostly solid defensive effort from the Breakers, but it took multiple quality saves from Naeher to secure the point.
Freels got off a hard shot in the 81st minute that Naeher not only made a diving save on but held to avoid giving a rebound. In the 86th Freels line up a penalty after a free kick deflected off a hand in the box. The shot was well-taken but Naeher had it read all the way and dove to her right to knock it away.
Sky Blue outshot the Breakers 22-4, a discrepancy caused partially by the Breakers bunkering for much of the 2nd half. “It’s not a very attractive way to play, but it’s effective,” Durkin said. The coach said the tactic was necessary because of the short turnaround after Thursday’s match. By the final few minutes the entire Breakers’ back line was hanging at midfield during attacking forays. “I think they were just exhausted. We couldn’t let them counter our counter.”
The match was the first of seven straight on the road for the Breakers (3-9-1, 10 points), the next of which is Friday at Western New York. Sky Blue (2-6-6, 12 points) head to the Cascadias to face the Thorns on Wednesday and the Reign on Saturday.
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