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Breakers earn first win on Natasha Dowie strike

April 24, 2017 GMT

Just two games into the season and 2017 is already looking a whole lot better than a year ago for the Breakers.

A 3-on-2 counterattack in the 37th minute proved to be the difference, as NWSL top draft pick Rose Lavelle led the rush to set up Natasha Dowie for the game’s only goal as the Breakers defeated Sky Blue FC, 1-0, in the home opener at Harvard’s Jordan Field yesterday.

A year ago, it took six matches for the Breakers to both score a goal and get a victory. The dreadful 3-15-2 campaign led to a major overhaul of the roster with only eight players returning from a year ago.

Yesterday marked the season debut for right back Julie King, who has been with the Breakers since prior to the NWSL inaugural season in 2013, and has seen the team take its share of lumps.

“I said to the girls, ‘Thanks for believing in what (coach) Matt (Beard) wanted to do here and coming here,’ ” King said about being moved to tears after the game. “This was a long time coming for me and the girls who were here last year, and just the organization in general. I guess I was a little overwhelmed.”

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The Breakers made a number of trades and had four of the top nine picks in the NWSL college draft in January, and Lavelle serves as the cornerstone of the rebuild.

“It definitely gives us some confidence knowing that we have the talent and capability to win games, and I think it’s going to make us even better going forward,” said Lavelle, who played in college at Wisconsin and has already been capped four times with the U.S. women’s national team.

Lavelle led the charge on the counterattack, playing a ball to her right into space for Dowie, the Breakers’ leading goalscorer last year with three, who buried a right-footed shot past a diving Kailen Sheridan.

“She’s got the vision,” Dowie said of Lavelle. “For me, it’s just a case of keeping my composure. I was really happy with the finish, I’m not normally one to smash shots, I normally like to place them, but I had that much time I thought, ‘You know what, I’ve just got to hit it.’ ”

Margaret Purce, who played at Harvard and was the No. 9 pick in the draft, nearly gave the Breakers an insurance goal midway through the second half just minutes after stepping onto the field as a substitute, ripping a shot off the crossbar.

Last year, the defense allowed 2.7 goals per game, and did not fare much better in the 2-0 season-opening loss at FC Kansas City, but made steady progress throughout yesterday’s match after a couple tense moments early.

Abby Smith, injured for most of rookie season last year, delivered as the last line of defense, making four saves for the shutout. She denied Samantha Kerr on a powerful header off a corner kick in the 14th, and 10 minutes later tipped a Kelley O’Hara header over the bar after a beautiful cross from Leah Galton on the left.

The Breakers will continue their three-game homestand on Saturday night against Seattle.