Boston Breakers at Portland Thorns FC
7/6/2013, 7:30 P.M.
Jeld-Wen Field, Portland, OR
On Wednesday, the Breakers failed to replicate a stellar weekend performance, earning a 1-1 draw in a lackluster showing against Seattle Reign. The east-west matchup could've ended much worse for the Breakers, who never seemed to find their rhythm in a game that heavily favored Hope Solo's up-and-coming Seattle side. The good news: the Breakers played poorly enough to earn nothing, but rescued a point off the foot of Sydney Leroux. The Bad news: Boston's back line faltered once again, leaving several attackers open in the box on multiple occasions. Alyssa Naeher's goalkeeping kept Boston alive, though the Breakers (4-5-4, 16 Pts.) will need to make significant defensive adjustments if they want to stall a dangerous Portland side.
Last Five: L-L-L-W-D
Just when Portland seemed poised to overtake Sky Blue FC atop the NWSL table, the team faltered, falling 2-0 to an FC Kansas City side (7-4-3, 24 Pts.) that now ranks among the league's best. With a full week of rest to their advantage, Alex's Morgan's squad will look to rebound at home, featuring a defense that has allowed just 11 goals in 13 matches. A win and a Sky Blue loss or draw would finally enable the Thorns (8-3-2, 26 Pts.) to move into first place.
Last Five: L-W-W-D-L
What to Watch For:
With all eyes on a defensive unit that showed well on Sunday, Cat Whitehill's line struggled to turn in a second quality outing. The result: a 1-1 draw that left Head Coach Lisa Cole scratching her head. On Saturday, expect a bounce-back performance for a back line with untapped potential, providing standout goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher with much-needed support. When the defense clicks, the Breakers become a potent squad; the consistent service of Heather O'Reilly, combined with the goal-scoring prowess of Sydney Leroux, have enough firepower to threaten even the strongest of defensive sides.
For the Thorns, a fresh start means returning to Coach Cindy Parlow's comfort zone: low scoring matches, highlighted by a flurry of opportunities for U.S. International Alex Morgan and Canadian International Christine Sinclair. Now opposed by a Boston attack that features constant threats Sydney Leroux, Heather O'Reilly, and Lianne Sanderson, Portland will need to hold tight, putting pressure back on the Breakers back four.
If Morgan and Sinclair can expose Boston's back line, as many teams accomplished in the month of June, expect Portland to steal a full three points at home.