Teammates take starring roles, this time for Breakers
Losing players to the US national team has been a double-edged sword for the Boston Breakers. The team has often had to prepare for WPS games without Rachel Buehler, Stephanie Cox, and Amy LePeilbet. But that defensive threesome has developed a rapport that translates successfully to both teams, and played a major role in the Breakers’ 1-0 win over Sky Blue FC last night.
Buehler made the deciding play with a 53d-minute goal off a free kick as the Breakers (2-2-0, 6 points) snapped a two-game losing streak before 2,789 at Harvard Stadium.
But the Breakers had to hold off some strong attacks from Sky Blue (0-2-1, 1 point). Therese Sjogran hit the side of the net and Heather O’Reilly got a point-blank shot in the first half, then Carrie Dew’s header was tipped away by goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher in the 61st minute.
“They’ve got a lot of good attacking personalities,’’ Naeher said of Sky Blue, based in New Jersey. “I thought the defense played well. It’s unbelievable, just the confidence that I have in all of them. They all know the game so well, they stay so composed, it gives me confidence to know they’re taking care of things in front of me. It’s great, I love it.’’
Buehler and Scottish national team member Ifeoma Dieke were speedy enough to track down the opposing forwards. LePeilbet moved to right back, her position with the US team, replacing Alex Scott, who took on a midfield role.
But the key tactical move was a simple halftime adjustment — Lauren Cheney dropping into midfield, Kelly Smith moving forward in a 4-1-4-1 alignment.
“We were trying to get Alex Scott more in the attacking play on the flank and put them under pressure,’’ Breakers coach Tony DiCicco said.
“The big change was throwing Kelly up top. Kelly’s so good at making runs to get in, so that opened up.’’
The Breakers, who visit Philadelphia Saturday, presented few threats in the opening half. But the changed formation paid off early in the second half.
Buehler roofed a left-footer from the edge of the goal area as the Sky Blue failed to clear Leslie Osborne’s deflection of Smith’s free kick.
“I just was in the right place at the right time,’’ said Buehler, who converted her third career goal. “It kind of bounced around a little bit and it kind of fell onto me. It was just an instinctual moment. I try to get in there and make something happen.’’
Buehler developed a scorer’s instinct playing on club teams as a youngster.
“I played forward in club a lot,’’ Buehler said. “I just liked to go forward, run to the goal, attack people, steal the ball, go to the goal. That was my thing. I just tried very hard up front, had a good work ethic.’’
After the goal, Cheney, another national team regular, hit the bar (58th minute) and left post (90th), and Keelin Winters missed an open goal (68th) and had an open shot saved (69th).
The Breakers have struggled with dead-ball plays since losing Jordan Angeli to a season-ending injury, DiCicco said.
“And, not having players [because of national team duty] we haven’t been able to work on set pieces,’’ DiCicco said. “[Buehler’s] defending was fantastic, she was strong in the air. And when you score a goal, that’s not a bad day’s work for a center half.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at email@example.com.