Breakers vs. Houston Dash 2014: NWSL Match Preview

Katie Schoepfer (right) has scored twice for the Breakers this season as a platoon forward. - USA TODAY Sports

In hopes of putting together a complete, 90-minute performance, the Breakers visit eighth-ranked Houston with a chance to move up the table.

Boston Breakers at Houston Dash
7/11/14, 9:00 PM
BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, TX

Current Form:

Despite proving that his last-place club can hang with the NWSL elite, Tom Durkin's team has continued to spiral downward, struggling to earn results when it matters most. The Breakers surrendered consecutive second-half leads to Washington and Seattle--two playoff-bound teams--in emphatic fashion, failing to support the inspired play of their frontrunners. Six goals in two matches must yield more than one point for this team to stay competitive.

Last Five: L-D-L-D-L

After earning a season-high three consecutive wins in late May/early June, the Dash have fallen back to reality, dropping their previous three matches. During that span, opponents have outscored Randy Waldrum's club 6-2, once again raising concerns about Houston's front line. If the Dash want to avoid swapping places with the basement-dwelling Breakers, they will need to score goals (and lots of them).

Last Five: W-W-L-L-L

What to Watch for:

With just eight matches left in their 2014 campaign, Tom Durkin's club still has plenty to prove. Since trading Sydney Leroux last November, the team has completed a number of surprising roster moves, drawing criticism from all corners of New England. How would this team look with holding midfielder Kaylyn Kyle in the middle and strikers Lisa De Vanna and Melissa Ortiz up top to spell Durkin's young guns? It may not be worth speculating, though Durkin and GM Lee Billiard need to prove that up-and-coming youngsters Kristie Mewis, Nikki Washington and Bianca Sierra have a future on this squad. To do so, he must find a steady roster spot for Washington, continue to trust Sierra, and find a way to get Mewis more involved; the U.S. International has taken just one shot on goal in nine appearances.

How will Durkin manage his roster on Friday? He still has many, many questions to answer, starting with the back line--and ending up top. The decisions made over the next eight weeks will determine the fate of Billiard's gutsy transactions. Will Washington, Sierra and Mewis find a way to contribute?

In Houston, the Dash have turned in a wildly inconsistent campaign. One moment they look like a middle-of-the-road club in search of a late playoff push, and the next they look out of sorts offensively and a full year away from relevancy. So, how can Waldrum's club find a happy medium? For starters, they need to begin finding the back of the net on a more regular basis. Admittedly, the team lacks a true finisher, as forwards Kealia Ohai (12 starts, 0 goals) and Stephanie Ochs (13 starts, 0 goals) have struggled to pull their weight. Productivity, then, has arrived from a revolving cast of characters, including Tiffany McCarty, Teresa Noyola and Ella Masar. This approach,

however, does not seem sustainable; the team needs a striker to pull defenders out of the play and find the back of the net at opportune times. From now until August, who will score goals for the Dash?

Look for the Breakers to finally earn a victory on Friday, quieting Houston's inconsistent attack while continuing to find early goals. If they do, Durkin's club will finally, finally help themselves out of ninth place.

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