The Breakers are undefeated at home. In a season already fraught with struggles, that's a nice feeling, and one the team will hope to preserve this weekend against FC Kansas City.
FCKC is coming off a loss to the Chicago Red Stars, who ended their four-game unbeaten streak with a tough 2-1 loss following a two-hour rain delay.
FCKC is known for their organization and control; Boston will need to disrupt them with their strength and energy, especially in the mid, if they want to prevent a slew of attacks. FCKC also has a great attacking rookie of their own in Shea Groom, with additional firepower in the form of Sarah Hagen.
The Boston defense will have to stay tight all game in order to prevent FCKC from feeding Groom or Hagen on the run. Hopefully Kassey Kallman will have a read on some of her former teammates in order to help keep the 18 a no-fly zone.
"Essentially, it boils down to shutting down Erika Tymrak," said Tom Durkin. "I know her well because she's an IMG [Academy] girl; she came up in our academy. We want to shut off the service to her. We want to force them to come out of their left side because they seem to be building their attacks out of the right side."
Optimistically speaking, the Boston defense has improved by leaps and bounds, initially giving up 12 goals in their first four games, but bringing that down to one goal conceded in the last two games as Kallman and Julie King cement their partnership.
FCKC's defense is solid as well, with veteran Amy LePeilbet keeping it locked down centrally and Jen Buczkowski sitting deeper to help cover. Kristie Mewis will have to contend with Leigh Ann Robinson on the left, which could end up limiting Boston's service unless they find more connectivity through the center despite missing Rafinha, or shore up their attack on the right. New signing Lauren Lazo is out this weekend in order to attend her graduation from Princeton, giving call-up Sam Lofton a chance to make an impression.
"First thing we're going to have to do is mess [up] their energy," said FCKC coach Vlatko Andonovski. Both he and LePeilbet cited Boston's overall youth as something FCKC would have to compensate for, a legitimate concern considering coach Tom Durkin often likes to come out fast for the first fifteen minutes of a game.
The Breakers might play things cautiously, though, considering usual #10 Rafinha is away in Brazil's WWC camp (though she did not make the final roster, both she and Bia are with Brazil until June 4). Look for Suzane Pires to take on attacking mid responsibilities, though this may finally be Stephanie Verdoia's time to shine. The mid will certainly be wanting to find Steph McCaffrey, who has been shouldering more than her fair share of Boston's offensive burden both in generating attack and scoring goals.
"Our girls trained really well this week," Durkin said. "It's been our best soccer so far. So even though we're down Lauren Lazo, Bia, and Rafa, I'm really happy with what the girls have put in, so I'm expecting a big game, and hopefully we get our legs under us and we're firing on all cylinders Saturday at 7."