Breakers vs. Washington Spirit 2014: NWSL Match Preview

Heather O'Reilly and her fellow Internationals will need an improved performance to keep the Breakers alive. - Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Riding the impressive play of rookie Jazmine Reeves, the Breakers will look to expose the league's weakest defense en route to a victory in Washington.

Boston Breakers at Washington Spirit
7/2/14, 7:00 PM
Maureen Hendricks Field at Maryland SoccerPlex

Current Form:

At the hands of Western New York, the Breakers suffered their 10th loss of the season, using a lone goal from Jazmine Reeves to stay competitive in an otherwise lopsided match. Reeves has continued to lead the way for the Breakers, who have hardly received expected productivity  from U.S. Internationals Heather O'Reilly and Kristie Mewis; the high-flying duo has combined for just two goals in 14 matches this season.

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

After losing to the Breakers on the road in early June, the Spirit fell apart defensively, surrendering eight goals across a two-match span. A 1-0 shutout win over Houston on Saturday offered a glimpse of reconciliation, though Washington has conceded a league-high 30 goals in 15 matches.  Their defensive struggles have done little to alter their overall success, however, as Saturday's win moved Washington into third place on the NWSL table.

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

What to Watch For:

Although Breakers supporters have hung their hats on the success of rookies Jazmine Reeves, Mollie Pathman and Nkem Ezurike, they have struggled to uncover an answer for the struggles of veterans O'Reilly, Mewis and, to a lesser extent, Lianne Sanderson. The pressure now falls on Head Coach Tom Durkin, who has failed to inspire his international players the way Lisa Cole or even Cat Whitehill did. In Boston, something needs to change.

An inconsistent Breakers formation, ranging from a conventional 4-4-2 (Western New York, 6/27) to an unconventional 3-5-2 (FC Kansas City, 5/25) has yielded unsurprisingly unpredictable results. Will Durkin practice patience, and let his veterans work out the kinks, or will he continue to flip-flop formations until he finds a desirable result? The latter has proven devastating, as his talented International players have gained no traction in 2014.

For Washington, sustainability has become a top concern. Can a team that concedes two goals per match stay in the playoff race through the heat of the summer? Maybe, if it continues to score goals. But recently, goals have become tough to muster, as the Spirit have scored just twice in their previous four matches (while surrendering 10). Ex-Breaker Lisa De Vanna, who arrived following a trade for Bianca Sierra, will look to help Washington's case, as the Australian International turned in 79 quality minutes on Saturday. Superstar forward Jodie Taylor, who hasn't found the back of the net since June 1 when she scored twice at Harvard Stadium, and midfielder Diana Matheson, who hasn't scored since May 26, must figure into the mix more consistently if Washington plans to stay in playoff contention. Can Head Coach Mark Parsons jumpstart and attacking revival?

On Wednesday, look for the Breakers to battle with Washington's back line, working to expose the team's greatest weakness. Physical  forward Nkem Ezurike and her speedy attacking ‘mate, fellow rookie Jazmine Reeves, should pester the Spirit from start to finish. The question remains: will the veterans join them?

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