Well, this is a nice change. With last Sunday's three-goal outburst in a win over Atlanta, the Breakers not only distanced themselves from last place, they actually pulled themselves up to within striking distance of the playoffs.
After a home loss to Chicago in late June, there were whispers--only whispers--among Breakers observers about changes in the organization. There was even talk, although never from anyone within the Breakers organization, that Tony DiCicco's future as coach might be in doubt.
Not anymore. DiCicco, arguably the most accomplished soccer coach in American history, has found a winning formula for a team that underachieved all season until the calendar turned to July. On Independence Day, the Breakers nabbed a crucial away win against a Philadelphia club that shares a name with the holiday.
Home success still eluded them, though, and after the first half against Atlanta at Harvard Stadium last Sunday, it looked as though it would again. The Beat led 1-0 at the break, and the more than 4000 Breakers fans who showed up right after the finish of the World Cup final had to wonder whether they would see their team win at home at all this season.
Then, everything changed. Boston exploded for three goals in five minutes in what might end up being its most important sequence of play all season. Jordan Angeli, Kelly Smith and Liz Bogus all netted between minutes 49 and 54 and effectively buried the Beat in a 3-1 Breakers win. For the marvelous Smith, the goal was her fourth of the season. Angeli scored her second. But Bogus, who opened her account with Sunday's goal, had struggled in recent games to even make the Breakers roster.
"It’s definitely been a hard month for me, but I believed in myself the whole time," Bogus said in a quote on the Breakers Web site. "I had friends and family that believed in me and I just fight. I fight every day to get back on the field in this position. Thankfully Tony [DiCicco] saw that hard work and gave me that second chance."
The whole team seems to have a second chance now. Once arguably the biggest underachievers in WPS, the Breakers have left worries of finishing in last place behind for the time being and are gunning for a top-four finish, which would earn them a playoff berth. The currently sit four points below the Washington Freedom in the WPS table, but they have a game in hand on Washington and two on fifth-place Chicago.
Suddenly, after two consecutive wins, a season that seemed to be slipping away now means something for the Breakers. The complex WPS playoff format strongly rewards the winner of the regular-season championship, and that honor is essentially out of reach for the Breakers. But a playoff berth would give new life to a team that has struggled for much of this season for reasons that nobody could quite understand.
There's work to be done, though, and it starts with a massive match on Sunday afternoon at Harvard Stadium against Washington. The game kicks off at 5pm and will be televised on Fox Soccer Channel. With a victory, the Breakers could put a serious scare into their opponents in the playoff chase. It's almost as if the season is beginning again and anything can happen. Finally, the Breakers are riding a wave of success.
Note: Due to prior commitments, Steven and I both missed the July 11 game and will also miss the July 18 game, so we won't be providing a full match report on Sunday. We'll do our best to get to the home matches that take place after that. --Lee
For more on the Breakers, check out Boston Breakers Report.