The Boston Breakers had a chance to clinch a playoff spot with two weeks remaining with a win tonight and help on Sunday, but had to settle for a 0-0 draw despite a dominating first half against Sky Blue FC in Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) action Saturday night at Harvard Stadium in Cambridge, Mass.
A win tonight and a Washington Freedom loss on Sunday would have been enough for the Breakers (7-6-4, 25 points) to secure a playoff berth, but it will have to wait. Boston peppered the Sky Blue FC goal with 16 shots throughout the match and had several strong scoring opportunities in the first half, but goalkeeper Jenni Branam (eight saves) was up to the task for the visitors.
“I thought that we played pretty well today,” said Breakers head coach Tony DiCicco. “Late in the game I think we just ran ourselves out trying to get a goal, so they had a couple of chances, but I thought we played pretty well. If we go out with that sort of endeavor, we should be fine.”
The Breakers are now one point behind second-place Saint Louis Athletica and remain two points clear of Sky Blue FC (6-7-5, 23 points), which remains in fourth place for the moment. The New Jersey club are three points ahead of the fifth-place Freedom, but Washington has two games in hand. Tonight’s game also ends the season series between the two teams in which Sky Blue FC finished ahead, 3-0-1.
Tonight’s shutout is the third straight for goalkeeper Alli Lipsher and the Boston defense, which has now gone a team season-high 323 minutes without conceding a goal. The Breakers had a strong first-half effort and came close to clinching the win numerous times. However, they were unable to find the back of the goal.
Several shots were sent right to Branam. In the 11th minute, Maggie Tomecka had perhaps the best chance of the match when she got on the end of a bouncing ball in front of the net, but hit it to the center where Branam was positioned to make the diving save. In the 17th minute, Kristine Lilly sent Jennie Nobis on a breakaway with a long ball, but with just Branam standing in her way of a goal, Nobis was unable to find the corner.
Sky Blue FC had just three shots to the Breakers 12 in the opening half, but in the 26th minute, Heather O’Reilly hit a shot that went right over the middle of the cross bar. Then in the 39th, O’Reilly again got the ball and took it down the right side before crossing it across the goal line, but Lipsher picked it up before one of O’Reilly’s teammates got a foot on it.
In the second half, neither team had the momentum needed to come away with a win, only tallying four shots each.
Breaker’s Lilly had a chance in the 54th minute when she shot the ball to the left side of the goal, but Branam flew through the air to make the catch.
“Jenni Branam made some great saves,” said DiCicco. “But our quality in front of the goal just isn’t good enough and it’s kind of plagued us all season long.”
Both teams put in substitutes in hopes that fresh legs could produce a goal, but that didn’t prove to be a solution either.
In the 75th minute, Alex Scott went on a breakaway with Sky Blue FC defender Jen Buczowski on her back with pressure, but Branam ran out to grab it before Scott could take her shot.
Sky Blue FC gave one last push in the first minute of stoppage time when Kelly Parker hit a shot to the left corner, but Breakers defender Heather Mitts got in front of it to deflect it from the goal.
The Breakers next game is Wednesday at the Washington Freedom.