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Mewis lifts Breakers over Thorns in stoppage time

BOSTON — Boston Breakers captain Julie King heard the home fans roar after Kristie Mewis’ shot floated into the open goal in the 93rd minute on Saturday afternoon at Soldiers Field Soccer Stadium, but she still waited a second before running to join the party.

King had been fooled before when Mewis chipped Portland goalkeeper Michelle Betos in the first half, only to see the ball cruelly carom off the crossbar and back into play. Mewis also came close off a corner kick minutes later, only to see the ball go inches wide of the post.

“I waited a weird length of time to celebrate,” King said. “The first one was a little weird because I thought that was in, and with the previous shots that she had, I was thinking, ‘I can’t trick myself into thinking this is a goal right now. My emotions can’t handle that.’ But after I knew it was in, I was ecstatic to say the least.”

Indeed, the second time was the charm for Mewis, and after Betos chose to head a through ball rather than chance it getting to her in the penalty area, Mewis calmly collected it and chipped it into the open net, the only goal in the Breakers’ 1-0 win, which looked for all the world like it would end scoreless until Mewis struck in the final minute of stoppage time. The loss was Portland’s first of the season.

“The first half was definitely frustrating for me because I think I could have put us up way earlier,” Mewis said. “I had three pretty clear chances. But I knew one would come for me eventually, and I finally got one at the end. At first I thought it was going to go over and I was going to get really upset.”

Boston (2-3-0, 6 pts.), which has won both its home games, has six of its next seven games at home, and with only goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and Cat Whitehill missing for the World Cup, might be able to put itself in a decent position by the time everyone is back to full strength. After giving up 12 goals in their first five matches, this was their best defensive performance of the season. Goalkeeper Jami Kranich made three saves for her first NWSL victory and shutout, while the center back tandem of King and Kassey Kallman allowed the Thorns (2-1-2, 8 pts.) few chances, even with former African Player of the Year Genoveva Anonma making her league debut.

“Today felt really good,” King said. “The chemistry (on the defense) was really good. It felt natural, the whole back line and Amy (Barczuk) and Shep (Katie Schoepfer) in front of us. It really felt fluid today. Everyone was comfortable playing their role and not pushing it out to someone else, and when that happens, we win.”

Meanwhile, Portland never quite got going. Coach Paul Riley stuck with the quartet of Allie Long, Mana Shim, Sinead Farrelly, and McCall Zerboni in the middle, and as expected, they had plenty of possession, but managed only five shots (Boston finished with 11, although only two – including the game-winner were on target). The Thorns were offside 10 times, with Long accounting for an amazing nine of them.

“In the first half, there was an awful lot of midfield play, and there wasn’t a lot of room,” Riley said. “Then the game got disheveled with a lot of turnovers. It doesn’t suit the way we play, that’s for sure, but no excuses, we didn’t get the job done. We just didn’t penetrate, we didn’t get behind them, and give credit to their back four, I thought they played very well.”

While the Thorns try to make due without eight players who are away for the World Cup (Rachel Van Hollebeke also missed Saturday’s game and Emily Menges left late with a hip injury), Tom Durkin and the Breakers hope to add players; Durkin talked after the game of maybe adding a striker (they have an international slot open). Lauren Lazo made her professional debut after being signed earlier in the week. Lazo would have been with the Breakers from the beginning of the season if it weren’t for an injury. But the time off also allowed Lazo to go back to Princeton and tie up some loose ends so she can graduate in a couple weeks.

With Duke rookie Mollie Pathman on the other side, Boston’s defense – which had been shredded 4-1 by Portland in the season-opener last month – looked very formidable Saturday.

“The team is slowly growing in confidence and this win should be huge for that going forward,” Durkin said.


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