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by Elan-Paolo DeCarlo
In what will surely be one of the most action packed and talked about games of the season, the Washington Spirit and Boston Breakers played to a 3-3 draw. An announced crowd of 2,673 was witness to a night filled with referee’s whistles, six cards, and a 30-plus minute weather delay. The draw brings Washington to 7-7-2 and the Breakers to 3-10-2.
The action began early when the referees signaled for a penalty kick in the 3rd minute for the Breakers. Breakers forward Jazmine Reeves was hurtling towards the goal and took a shot while being defended. Reeves fell after she shot towards Spirit goalie Ashlyn Harris, who easily made the save. The whistle came on a very questionable tackle call, replays show that contact was minimal, if there was any at all. Regardless of the validity of the call, Heather O’Reilly took the penalty for the Breakers and she calmly placed the ball in the bottom right corner, scoring easily as Harris guessed to the wrong side.
The Breakers were not finished with penalty kicks. In the 7th minute, the Spirit were once again charged with a foul in the 18 yard box. Ali Krieger was called for a foul on Breakers forward Nkem Ezurike. Both players were jockeying hard for the ball, Krieger got a little carried away on the tackle, bringing Ezurike to the ground. Once again, the Breakers called on O’Reilly to take the PK and once again, she converted. This time, she went high and to the left making Harris guess incorrectly, allowing the Breakers to take a 2-0 advantage.
In the 28th minute, the Spirit began their comeback. In a beautiful transition set, Christine Nairn played a ball up to Lisa De Vanna, who settled then found a cutting Jodie Taylor with a high cross into the 18 yard box. Taylor was able to finish with a strong header down into the middle of the net, to cut the deficit to 2-1. It was Taylor’s 8th goal of the season and De Vanna’s first assist as a member of the Spirit.
Just before halftime, the Breakers were able to strike again. In the 45th minute, Nkem Ezurike played a clever cross to Jazmine Reeves, who was able to recover the ball after Crystal Dunn fell. Reeves was then able to place the ball perfectly upper 90 past Ashlyn Harris to give the Breakers a 3-1 halftime lead.
The second half belonged to the Spirit. They got started early, as Lisa De Vanna was able to play a cross right to the 1 yard line, but there was no one around to finish it. However, that pressure kept up and the Spirit were able to break through in the 56th minute. A mistake by the official was made, as a free kick was called on a foul that happened inside the 18 yd box. However, karma proved fruitful for the Spirit. Christine Nairn chipped the ball into Jodie Taylor, who headed it right into keeper Alyssa Naeher, who couldn’t coral it, leading to a rebound back to Taylor, who then buried it into the net, making the score 3-2. Taylor now has 9 goals on the season, good for the team lead and tied for second league wide.
The Spirit would continue to push the pace in the second half, creating chances and applying pressure, searching for the equalizer. Naeher and the rest of the Breakers’ defense held strong. In the middle of the half, the lightning alarm sounded at the SoccerPlex, leading to a 30 minute weather delay. Following the resumption of the match, the Spirit continued with their offensive push. Finally, amazingly, in the 90th minute, the Spirit’s luck turned. Former Spirit defender Bianca Sierra committed a foul on Jodie Taylor inside in the 18 yd box. The referee signaled for the third penalty kick of the game. Facing a loss, the Spirit sent Diana Matheson to the line, and she came through. Her strike into the bottom left corner tied the game at 3-3, getting the Spirit a well deserved and hard fought point out of the match.
The match was hotly contested and quite physical as the referee handed out six cards, including a red on Maddy Evans in the 69th minute, forcing the Breakers to play with 10. That one player advantage seemed to be the difference between a win and a tie for Boston, as the Spirit were then able to control the flow of the game in the final 20 minutes. Whether it was the overzealous whistle from the official, a crazy lightning storm, or yet another penalty kick, this 3-3 tie proved to be quite an eventful night at the Maryland SoccerPlex.