Breakers vs. Portland Thorns 2014: NWSL Match Preview

Midfielder Lianne Sanderson (left) will look to contain Thorns midfielder Allie Long (right) who has scored four goals in 2014. - USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, the Breakers will face the defending champion Portland Thorns for an east-west showdown. A win will serve as a top priority for Tom Durkin's club, as his team sits at the bottom of the NWSL table with just three points (1-7-0).

Portland Thorns at Boston Breakers
5/28/14, 7:30 PM
Harvard Stadium, Allston, MA

The story remains the same for the Breakers, who enter Wednesday's matchup in a 1-6-0 hole: strong first half, poor second half, no result. On Sunday, in dire need of their second victory of the season, the Breakers strung together a complete offensive performance--but only for the first 45 minutes of play. The resulting 2-0 defeat raised significant questions about the state of the attack, as well as the maturity and poise of the back line. The team will now need to upend the defending champs if it wants to save a young 2014 campaign.

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

For Portland, Memorial Day weekend proved equally as disappointing. Despite turning in a superb offensive outing (8 shots on goal, 10 corner kicks), the Thorns conceded late, when Sky Blue forward Kelly O'Hara netted the game-winner off a deep free kick from U.S. International teammate Christie Rampone. Both Portland losses have come in the waning moments; the team will need to buckle down and turn in a 90-minute performance against the Breakers to earn a win on the road.

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

What to Watch For:

After dropping six of their first seven matches, the Breakers will need a quick gut check before Wednesday's midweek matchup. In the first half of Sunday's loss to F.C. Kansas City, Lianne Sanderson, Heather O'Reilly and Katie Schoepfer created a number of dangerous opportunities, nearly combining for a go-ahead goal. And, at the same time, the defense seemed capable of holding tight, even against one of the league's top attacks. But in the second half, Tom Durkin's side looked like an entirely different club. What needs to change?

When the Breakers take the field on Wednesday, look for energy, tempo and momentum to play a crucial role. The club has all the tools (albeit a somewhat-porous backline) to compete with the elite clubs in women's soccer. Now, they must enter with unmistakable energy, control the tempo, and fight for the momentum, even if the Portland bags an early goal.

For the visitors, all eyes will focus on Alex Morgan and her impending return. The goal-scoring phenom has missed all of Portland's first eight games and, despite rumors of her weekend return, will likely feature in Wednesday's matchup. Morgan will look to contribute to her side's attacking woes, as the team ranks 7th on the NWSL table in goals scored; only Houston and Boston have scored fewer goals. Portland has solely depended on midfielder Allie Long (4 goals) and forward Jessica McDonald (5 goals) for goals thus far, and will need to spread the wealth in order to develop a true attacking identity. Who will step up in Portland? Morgan, as well as forward Christine Sinclair (0 goals) and midfielder Meleana Shim (0 goals) represent Wednesday's likely candidates.

If the Breakers can put together a complete match--90 minutes, and not 45--they will have the chance to take advantage of Portland's slumping attack. If they do, somebody in Boston will need to find the net, or the club will continue to lose ground on the league's playoff contenders.

To buy tickets to Wednesday's match, visit BreakersTickets.com

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