The Boston Breakers take on the Houston Dash this Sunday in their first home game of the season and their first game at their new home, Soldiers Field. The Breakers got off to a rough start against the Portland Thorns, coming home after a 4-1 loss after being unable to break down Paul Riley's 3-6-1.
The Dash play a more conventional formation than that under Randy Waldrum, but have plenty of danger in the midfield and attack. The combination of Carli Lloyd, Morgan Brian, Kealia Ohai, and Jess McDonald has generated three goals and one assist in two games.
The Dash will be without their Canadian players, though. Goalkeeper Erin Mcleod and defenders Lauren Sesselmann and Allysha Chapman are out, though backup GK Bianca Henninger is certainly no slouch. Look for defenders Stephanie Ochs and Ella Masar (yes, she's a right back now) to pick up the slack in the back line as they did in the Dash's first game. Masar is currently dealing with a broken nose thanks to a ball to the face from teammate Ochs, as well as a fractured left hand, but is still listed as probable.
Meanwhile in Boston, the team has had two weeks to recover from bicoastal travel and a fairly disheartening loss in which they were unable to get much of an attack going, Steph McCaffrey's wonder goal notwithstanding.
Coach Tom Durkin may rearrange his midfield into a more defensive configuration to handle Lloyd and Morgan at the same time, or he may go for broke and deploy something like a 4-1-4-1, relying on a single DM sitting in front of the back four to help corral any strays. He may try a 4-5-1, crowding the midfield to block off passing lanes. He could bench 70% of his starters and start most of his bench players. If Boston fans have learned anything from last season, it's that Coach Durkin zigs when he may as well zag when it comes to formations. This early in the season it's probably more likely than not Durkin will try to keep a consistent lineup in order to generate some cohesion, but don't be surprised if there are new faces in the starting XI.
Durkin will also have to switch around his central defenders with Cat Whitehill out due to bruised ribs. Whitehill made a few critical errors against Portland and it remains to be seen if that was simply the last cobwebs of the offseason or if it heralds a new starting center back pairing. Kassey Kallman is a lock to start and could partner with Rachel Wood, or possibly Julie King, who returns to match fitness after nursing an injury in preseason.
The Breakers will also still have the services of their starting goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, now officially named to the USWNT World Cup roster. The Breakers will want to get as much as they can out of their starter before she departs for national duty and backup Jami Kranich takes her place.
The game kicks off at 5 PM ET and will be streamed live on NWSL's youtube channel with no geoblocking. The Breakers then hit the road for two away games in a row against the WNY Flash and the Chicago Red Stars.