X-REDS: I’m a Breaker!

It’s been a while since I last blogged about X-Reds, a new section of the blog started with good intentions back in April before having to take a back seat due to university work (I’m now a graduate!).

But now, it’s back. X-Reds has gone global – I’m in Boston!
I’ve come out here on a footballing pilgrimage, those who have followed LFCladiesfans for a couple of years may be familiar with my blogs on trips to Washington Spirit and Western New York Flash in previous summers. To mark graduating uni and before entering the scary world of applying for graduate jobs, I decided to take a trip to America and take in as many NWSL games as possible.
Arriving in Boston on Friday and watching their 3-2 defeat to Sky Blue FC yesterday afternoon (more of that later in the blog), on Wednesday I’ll be headed to New York to watch the Flash play on Saturday and the following weekend catching both Chicago Red Stars and another Breakers game before coming home.
Boston Breakers are of course managed by ex-Liverpool Ladies manager Matt Beard, the coach who turned the Reds’ fortunes around, signing countless excellent players, won two league titles and led us into Europe for the first time. 
Matt has been joined in Boston by Whitney Engen, the US defender who cemented a place in the national team while at Liverpool. Whitney has been named captain of Boston, but is away with the US at the moment due to her inclusion in the Olympics squad.
Also following Matt to Boston is Louise Schillgard (was Fors) and Libby Stout. 
Louise one of my favourite players to have watched at the Reds back in 2013, and out of retirement to play for the Breakers and not to overuse the word favourite, but my favourite goalkeeper Libby Stout! 
On the day of the game my friend and I visited Havard University as the team play at one of their stadiums – Jordan Field.
The stadium is a short walk from the main Harvard campus and is right next door to the colossal Harvard Stadium – which you could walk right into and look around.
One thing that I love about women’s football games in America is how excited everybody appears to be from the staff to the supporters about the game, the Breakers haven’t had much luck in recent weeks and have registered just one win in the league this season. Yet there was an optimistic atmosphere – likely helped no doubt that the club announced the signing of another ex-Liverpool player Natasha Dowie (46 goals in 67 appearances for the Reds) two hours before kick off.
Dowie wasn’t at the game yesterday but hopefully will be across for the Orlando game on the 31st.
I collect football scarves so bought a Breakers one (along with a shirt) for my collection, I even put it on for one hot brief second before realising that it was about 30 degrees out and swiftly put it into my backpack. The shirt however stayed on. 
We settled into our seats, sat back to relax and watch the game. Then a drum started in the next section to us. I thought I’d left the drum behind in Widnes and here was a travelling group of maybe 15-20 Sky Blue fans that could rival Liverpool’s excellent support. Although the lyrics to the songs could do with a little work, what could better Caroline Weir’s Scottish ballad. 
The Sky Blue fans also had a cow bell which was interesting and pretty much sang continuously from the opening to the final whistle.
The Breakers supporters had drums of their own – and flares! 
On the field the Breakers got off to the best possible start, Stephanie Verdoia winning the ball inside the Sky Blue half and playing a nicely timed pass wide to the chasing Stephanie McCaffrey. McCaffrey’s cross bounced around the box before being sent over the line by Angela Salem – scoring her first goal for the club in just the 3rd minute.
Just over 20 minutes later however, and following a couple of good saves by Sky Blue keeper Caroline Casey, Christen Westphal brought down Leah Galton in the area. Sarah Gillion stepped up to take the spot kick and duly equalised for the visitors.
Before half time, they would take the lead. Galton poking home Natasha Kai’s cross to put Sky Blue 2-1 up.
At half time my friend Jack left, we had tickets for Paul McCartney at Fenway Park and he didn’t want to miss any of it, so I moved to the opposite end of the pitch to sit with what I’m going to call the Breakers Ultras, because of the flares.
Unfortunately Sky Blue found the back of the net once more, a very well worked set piece move finished by Erica Skroski.
The Breakers rallied during the final 10 minutes; Schillgard, who I was genuinely thrilled to watch play live once more, became the centerpiece and it will be interesting and exciting to see her possibly revive her on-field partnership with Natasha Dowie once she arrives. As I mentioned on twitter yesterday in their one and only season together at Liverpool they netted a combined 29 goals with a number of Dowie’s assisted by Schillgard herself.
It was Schillgard who teed up Julie King for the Breakers second of the afternoon. A delightful free kick that landed perfectly for King to head past Casey – leading my new Ultra friends to set off a flare!

This led to a tense ending to the game as the Breakers pressed for an equaliser that never came, the tie finishing 3-2 to Sky Blue F.C.
All in all it was a promising display from the Breakers, 2 goals scored against a side that hadn’t conceded in the previous 3 games and a defence that contained Christie Rampone(!). 
The side were also missing Engen and the suspended Brooke Elby, while Dowie could be the goal scorer they need to finish some of the chances created in the opening 30 minutes.
Following the game it was good to catch up with Matt and see both Libby and Lollo! It’s also been great to meet Tris who lives in Boston and supports both Boston and Liverpool, I love being able to go to new places and meet people that I have met through LFCladiesfans! I’m already looking forward to my return trip here on 31st July.
p.s. my taxi pulled up outside of Fenway Park just as Macca came on stage, talk about timing! Although he got the words to Hey Jude wrong, na na na na, Fara Williams! 


Natasha Harding struck her first goal in a red shirt as Liverpool Ladies eased to a comfortable 2-0 win over promoted side Reading FC Women.
Both goals came in quick succession during the first half, Laura Coombs had teed Harding up for hers and then netted one of her own to seal the victory.
Scott Rogers had navigated a tumultuous start to life as manager of Liverpool Ladies, with one win in six as the Reds had no trouble finding the back of the net yet struggled defensively.
In recent weeks however the current has begun to turn. A thumping 4-0 victory away at Sunderland in May was followed by back-to-back hard fought draws with top of the league Manchester City.
Next came progression to the quarter-finals of the Continental Cup with a battling derby performance against Merseyside rivals Everton.
Now the Reds are unbeaten in five, having conceded just once – away at City – and scored eight goals with seven different scorers.
Rogers reverted to the side that had twice frustrated City; Caroline Weir flanked either side by Natasha Harding and Shanice De Sanden; Rosie White, Kate Longhurst and Laura Coombs in midfield and a back line that is now unchanged in the last five games with Siobhan Chamberlain in goal behind Satara Murray, Gemma Bonner, Sophie Ingle and Alex Greenwood. 
To say that Liverpool dominated the first half would be an understatement, the neat passes and clever runs a demonstration of understanding amongst team mates and a mark of a team taking shape and coming together. 
The Reds set up camp in the Reading half, drawing a couple of early free kicks as Greenwood first swung one inside the box that was met by Harding yet took a deflection to fall into the hands of Reading goalie Mary Earps.
Then Harding was fouled at the edge of the area after exchanging passes with Greenwood and Coombs stepped up to send the set piece inches wide.
On a couple of occasions Reading broke ranks; the ever-impressive Murray intercepting one hopeful ball forward and finding Longhurst. Longhurst in turn got the ball wide to Van De Sanden who exhibited her explosive pace to cut in and square to Weir, however the move ended with the Scottish international’s strike blocked. 
Reading’s Emma Follis then created a chance for herself, finding space and shooting from distance. The effort flew past the backtracking Chamberlain but, fortunately for Liverpool, crashed back off the crossbar and the Reds were able to clear.
The visitors would be left to rue this chance as with almost the next move Liverpool took the lead. Coombs put Harding through and the Welsh winger finishing low past Earps to chalk up her first goal for the club and put Liverpool ahead. 
Just seven minutes later it was 2 – Coombs this time the recipient of the ball within the area, a wonderful through ball from Weir, and lifting the ball over Earps’ shoulder from  yards out.
As half time loomed both sides had chances, White unable to control her header following a Weir set piece and Harding closed down by two Reading defenders inside the area before she was able to get a shot in.
For Reading Jade Boho-Sayo could only watch as Chamberlain dived to punch her effort clear, while back at the other end Van De Sanden had Earps beaten once more with a fancy flick yet the centre back managed to head away. 
Reading made two changes at the break as they looked to drag themselves back into the game, Amber Stobbs and Molly Bartrip on for Helen Ward and Hannah Knapton.
The substitutions made a difference for the visitors and they had an array of chances at the beginning of the second half. Bonner expertly defending a low cross 6-yards out from goal and Coombs smartly showing Boho-Sayo away from goal before dispossessing the former Bristol forward and allowing Longhurst to carry the ball away.
Then Chamberlain rose highest to claim a corner before quickly reacting to Follis’ shot at point blank range, preventing the no.7 from pulling a goal back.
Reading also hit the woodwork once more in the second half, Stobbs seeing Chamberlain push her strike onto the crossbar with the rebound hurriedly cleared by Bonner as Follis looked to capitalise.
The Reds were carving opportunities out of their own as Reading looked to pull a goal back, the second half more of an even contest and both Harding and Van De Sanden causing the opposition defence plenty of problems.
Van De Sanden latching onto a long ball forward to round Earps yet let down by a first touch that was a tad too heavy and allowed the ball to run away from her, while Harding almost doubled her tally for the afternoon but seeing her header from a Weir free kick land in the arms of Earps.
Despite Reading’s second half resurgence, Liverpool impressively defended as a team to keep their fourth clean sheet in five games – a huge positive they can take into their next game, same time next Saturday against Notts County Ladies.
LIVERPOOL LADIES: Chamberlain, Murray, Bonner (C), Ingle, Greenwood, Longhurst, Coombs, White (Zelem), Harding (Charles), Van De Sanden (Hodson), Weir
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Natasha Harding


OVER 1,000 supporters were in attendance at the Select Security Stadium, Widnes to watch Liverpool Ladies knock Merseyside rivals Everton Ladies out of the Continental Cup.

A scrappy opening to the game seen chances for either side sparse before Emma Lundh caused chaos inside the 6-yard box on the stroke of half-time, rising highest and appearing to head the ball past Kirstie Levell.

The forward has since declared on her Twitter account that she didn’t get the final touch, attributing the goal to Blues defender Dan Turner.

Scott Rogers had made several changes to the team that drew away at Manchester City; the back line remaining unchanged with Siobhan Chamberlain behind Satara Murray, Gemma Bonner, Sophie Ingle and Alex Greenwood.

Mandy Van Den Berg returned to the starting 11 in defensive midfield and was joined in the centre by Katie Zelem and Caroline Weir – the Scottish international playing a slightly deeper role than of late.
Lundh also started alongside Tash Harding and Shanice Van De Sanden in attack.

Having missed the opening 10 minutes due to the revised kick off time and heavy traffic, my first taste of derby day action was rather subdued – although I’m reliably informed Murray made an impressive early challenge to prevent Rosella Ayane getting a shot in when the on-loan Chelsea youngster was through on goal.

The Blues went close again when another loan signing, Chloe Kelly of Arsenal making her debut, won possession deep in the Liverpool half and hurriedly fired a shot at goal that was easy for Chamberlain to collect.

Liverpool chances flowed through Greenwood, both her delivery from open play and set piece a source of opportunity for her team mates.

Centre back pairing Ingle and Bonner both connecting with corners yet Ingle was unable to direct her header on target and Bonner’s attempt was gathered by Levell.

From open play Greenwood had also found Weir in the box, Harding neatly flicking the ball onto Weir but Everton’s Turner blocking her ball towards Zelem who had surged forward to aid the attack.

Then Greenwood herself almost capitalised on good wing play by Van De Sanden, the no.11 had cut in from the right to send a pass to the left back 20 yards from goal. Greenwood struck the ball well and was denied only by the leaping Levell who punched her shot over the crossbar.

Everton’s greatest chance of the game came as Kelly twisted and turned inside the Reds penalty box, squirming away from her marker to shoot from 10 yards out – Chamberlain quick to react and palming the effort away.

The Reds took the lead shortly later as Lundh was the only red shirt amongst a sea of blue inside the 6-yard box as Greenwood’s delivery from a corner dropped in the middle; Lundh jumped and seemed to get the final touch, yet the goal will likely go down as a Turner own goal.

Neither Lundh nor Turner returned with their respective sides following the break, Rosie White on for Lundh and Turner replaced by Ellie Stewart.

It’s fair to say that Murray has enjoyed a fine run in the side this season, this her fourth consecutive start on the right of the defence. In the first half the American had been penned back in her own half, yet as Everton faltered she was able to move higher up the pitch.

Dispossessing a blue shirt of the ball just inside the Everton half and carrying the ball high up the pitch, the final cross intercepted before it could reach a team mate.

Liverpool dominated proceedings in the second half however were unable to capitalise with a second goal, Greenwood once more refused a goal against her old club by Levell and then White fizzing a chance wide after being put through by the left back.

Levell made it a hat trick of impressive saves shortly after the hour mark, stopping Ingle’s effort at point blank range.

Controversy then reigned as former Reds defender Stewart received her marching orders for a challenge on Van De Sanden.

Everton were down to 10 as Liverpool continued to see the game out with ease, into the final minutes of the game Harding showcasing her pace after tapping the ball wide to Greenwood, receiving it back to nudge it around the Blues right back – her final ball stopped by the defence.

There was time for one more Everton chance, another ex-Liverpool player Claudia Walker letting a shot fly from 20 yards but luckily for her former club this went inches wide and the Reds progressed into the quarter-finals.

LIVERPOOL LADIES: Chamberlain, Murray, Bonner ©, Ingle, Greenwood, Van Den Berg, Weir, Zelem, Harding, Van De Sanden, Lundh