Take the internationals off two of the top teams in the NWSL, and what do you get? A Breakers team trying to shut down Crystal Dunn by any legal means necessary and sneak one on the counterattack.
And to Boston’s credit, it more or less worked. Sure, the Spirit outshot the Breakers 16-8, and Boston’s Jami Kranich made eight saves to Kelsey Wys’ one. But Kranich didn’t really have to stand on her head in this one. Her best save may have been on Christine Nairn’s 45-yard on-target effort, though she gave up a rebound that could’ve been dangerous. Kranich could’ve done nothing to stop Amanda Da Costa’s blast from the top of the box, and Wys was wrong-footed by Maddy Evans’ deflected strike a couple of minutes later.
Boston coach Tom Durkin said he wished Nairn and Dunn had been in Canada for the World Cup. A lot of people around the NWSL surely feel the same way.
The Spirit played attractive soccer, using the wings effectively and enjoying a lot of possession. But by the end, they were whacking the ball in Dunn’s general direction, hoping she could beat four defenders and score. She often beat three, but not the fourth.
So the lingering question here is the Spirit attack. Three chances wound up at Joanna Lohman’s feet, which seems like an unusual fluke of circumstances. Dunn had six shots; Nairn had five. Shouldn’t someone else be in there?
Granted, the Breakers had much less going up front. Morgan Marlborough and Stephanie McCaffrey were credited with zero shots. But the defense held, and the midfielders got a few shots.
Both teams are in good shape to move through the next few weeks without the internationals in play. It’s going to look a little different after that.