A loud and supportive crowd welcomed the Boston Breakers back to Harvard Stadium on Sunday evening. It was their first game since the United States lost the Women’s World Cup Final in Germany last week. The Breakers had five players on that team and another who lifted the trophy with victors Japan so coach Tony DiCicco decided to rest his over-worked stars against the Western New York Flash. Only Kelley O’Hara, who played just one game as a substitute at the World Cup, made the starting line-up. But that didn’t stop Boston from giving a fine performance in a 2-2 draw in front of 6,200 people, one of the largest crowds in its history.
Not all were hard-core soccer fans. Some seemed more interested in finding rare seats in the shade (temperatures reached the mid 80’s) or buying cold drinks from the concession stand. Families with small children were in abundance. But as the game got going, the crowd came alive. One small child asked excitedly if that was Abby Wambach, the U.S.’s goal-scoring hero at the World Cup, down there on the field (it wasn’t, but Breakers’ midfielder Keelin Winters has a similar short hair-cut).
Other supporters would have found themselves at home in the most heated European grudge match. Section 13, home of the Breakers’ boisterous fan club “Riptide,” was the center of the action. Fans dressed in matching blue jerseys sang, chanted and waved flags for the entire ninety minutes. They were backed up by the rhythmic drumming of Grooversity, the Breakers’ pep band. Marcus Santos, the band leader, said there were “definitely more fans than usual” at the game today and Jackie Anderson, president of the Riptide, agreed. She estimated that the Breakers typically attract between four and five thousand fans per game.
Laura and Paul Widell said their son Brian, an intern with the Breakers, believed that the US’s fine performances at the World Cup were attracting new fans to the team. He expects attendance will stay high for the rest of the season, especially on weekends. Last week, the Boston Globe reported that Breakers’ ticket sales had increased by 400 percent since the US’ quarterfinal victory over Brazil in the World Cup. Marty and Mary Jane Schoepfer, the parents of Breakers’ forward Katie and regulars at all Boston’s home games, also said that the World Cup would be a great boon for the Breakers.
But they added that high ticket sales for Sunday’s game could be explained by the presence of Marta, the Flash’s star forward from Brazil, who is widely considered the best female player in the world. The Brazilian was cheered loudly by some sections of the crowd. Jose Olivera, wearing the instantly recognizable yellow-and-green kit of Brazil’s national team, and his girlfriend Adriana were among Marta’s most enthusiastic supporters. The Brazilian couple had never been to a Breakers’ game before. They said they came to this one not to support the local team but to cheer on their beloved Marta and maybe get her autograph after the match.
Iggy Farias, who has been coming to Breakers’ matches since their inaugural season three years ago, said this was one of the best-attended games he had seen. Joe Rowland, another regular, agreed and both men said the last game they could remember being this crowded was Marta’s first ever appearance against the Breakers in 2009 when she played for the now-defunct Los Angeles Sol.
The talented Brazilian attacker did not disappoint. Although the Riptide hurled abuse at her whenever she received the ball, Marta showed off her trademark skill and dribbling ability. Seven minutes before halftime, she tied the game 1-1 with a nice goal, canceling out Kelley O’Hara’s 20th minute opener for Boston. Marta didn’t seem to have much of an angle to shoot on net when she found herself in space near the top left corner of the box. But she placed her effort perfectly: it rolled past the hands of Boston’s diving keeper and just squeezed inside the far post.
In the 84th minute, Boston took the lead, again through O’Hara, who finished a well-executed one-two with teammate Meghan Klingenberg. The crowd went wild but their celebrations proved short-lived. Three minutes later, the Breakers failed to clear a Flash free-kick into the box. The ball bounced around and around until the Flash’s Alex Morgan, who scored twice for the U.S. at the World Cup, flicked it over the keeper and into the net with the left side of her foot. It was a fine strike though the Riptides loudly bemoaned what they saw as a “fluke” goal.
Mr. Farias, the long-time fan, summed up the match, saying it had been “good quality soccer.” He made a convincing pitch to all Bostonians with a potential interest in the game: “It’s the best players in the world. Why not come? And only 15 bucks!”