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Breakers surprise Spirit to end winless streak

The Breakers snapped a nine-match winless streak that spanned all of June and July.  (Photo Copyright Clark Linehan for The Equalizer.)

The Breakers snapped a nine-match winless streak that spanned all of June and July. (Photo Copyright Clark Linehan for The Equalizer.)

The Breakers used two early goals and some stellar play from NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year Alyssa Naeher to snap a club-record, nine-match winless streak, 2-1 over the Spirit. Julie King and Kyah Simon scored in the opening 20 minutes in front of an overflow crowd in the final home match of the season for the Breakers. Diana Matheson cut into the lead early in the second half but the Spirit were unable to find a second goal. The visitors finished the match with a 27-7 edge in shots, 12-3 in shots on target.

King and Simon both returned to the lineup after sitting out last week, King due to a red card and Simon through injury. They became the main cogs, along with Naeher, in the Breakers securing a win for the first time since May 30. King got on the scoreboard in the 12th minute. Kristie Mewis whipped a corner kick to the far post where King was able to get up for it over her mark, Katherine Reynolds. King’s shot went back toward the near post where it eluded a diving Kelsey Wys. The Spirit turned to Wys after originally named starter Ashlyn Harris was scratched due to illness.

Six minutes later the Breakers doubled the lead. There was some debate as to whether Simon should have been awarded the goal, but there can be no debate that Simon began the play by collecting the ball deep and starting a counter. She eventually laid it off to the right wing to Stephanie McCaffrey and cut toward goal. McCaffrey dribbled to the end line and hit a cross that Wys was able to knock down with an outstretched hand. The rebound hit off someone in front—perhaps Ali Krieger—and looked like it was heading across the line when Simon gave it a final touch to make it 2-0.

The Spirit collected the match after that and put in regular starter Whitney Church out of halftime and Christine Nairn shortly after that. And they got on the scoreboard following a wild sequence in the 49th minute. Crystal Dunn took the first crack at goal and Naeher came out to save it. The ball went back to Dunn, who pulled Naeher off her feet then tried a cross which Naeher recovered in time to bother. A subsequent shot was cleared off the line by the Breakers defense to Tori Huster who took a shot that initially beat Naeher.

Had the play ended there the Spirit may have had grounds to argue Huster’s shot crossed the line before a desperate Naeher lunged over and tapped it out. But Matheson finished the rebound to make it a moot point, the goal going to Matheson for her first since tearing her ACL last fall.

The Spirit had chance after chance to score a second. Dunn was energetic to the end. She got in and sent a shot just wife as the clock struck close to 90. And on the other side of 90 she sent a cross through the top of the six where it teased the Breakers until Mollie Pathman was able to clear it out of danger.

The Breakers (4-10-3, 15 pts) remain last in NWSL but now cannot be officially eliminated from the playoffs until two weeks from now. After their break for the international window they resume their season with three away matches. The next one is Saturday, August 22 in Kansas City. The Spirit (7-5-3, 24 pts) remain in third and host the Flash Wednesday night. Then they play during the international break, visiting Chicago next Sunday to make up a match postponed due to inclement weather.


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