The Boston Breakers have had a mixed start to the season. They went down in their first game against Portland 4-1. They managed to bounce back after two weeks to defeat Houston 3-2, partially off the back of an own goal. Then they lost to the Western New York Flash 3-1 after an initially bright 15 minutes.
"It was kind of a shocker," Durkin said of the loss. "One of the things is we thought, we as a coaching staff, was that we had more in the tank than we did. So even though we had a day off and we had a day for regen, it was a quick turnaround to travel off the three days. And they had two weeks to prepare and we know full well after the Houston game how beneficial those two weeks can be. I think on the girls' part, I think they had some preconceived ideas about how they were saying, you know, Western New York is 0-2. And we're looking and saying Western New York's 0-2 but it was two of the better soccer-playing teams in the league."
Meanwhile, the Red Stars are 2-0-1 with a 3-2 win over the Reign, a 2-2 tie with the Thorns, and 1-0 win over Sky Blue. They are also without four of their starters: goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc, midfielders Shannon Boxx and Lori Chalupny, and forward Christen Press, who has gone on a tear for the club with four goals and an assist in three games.
"I think Chicago is sort of, now the lineup's in flux, so it's going to be interesting to see if [Coach Rory Dames] adjusts to how we play or if he says, you know, I'm going to go with my system with the next group of players," Durkin said. "I still think that they'll play with a 4-4-2. They say it's a diamond but I think it's really two banks of four. Their midfielders play quite wide. We're going to adjust our diamond a little bit. We're going to play with two sixes and two tens as opposed to a six, two eights, and a ten."
A diamond midfield would be an adjustment from the rotating front three that started against WNY; Durkin is going into Chicago more defensively minded. "We have to figure out a way to hunker down on the road and protect a lead," he said. "We're playing away and we had some trouble in transition, so we're going to play with two midfielders behind the line of the ball."
When asked for other keys to improving the team's performance, Durkin said, "I just think we need to improve from a mental standpoint. We've talked at length. We met for a pretty long time on the first day back after training about what our mentality is and why we don't translate practice into the game...and how we can help them gain confidence and exhibit the confidence that they exhibit in training in the actual game."
Midfielder Kristie Mewis agreed. Of her takeaways on the WNY game, she said, "I think we worked hard all week and we had a game plan and I just don't really think that we executed it the way we wanted to."
Boston is out four players, with Cat Whitehill and Bia remaining on the injured list, Maddy Evans listed as doubtful, and Ketlen Wiggers waived. Durkin appears to have already adjusted to Wiggers' absence by falling back on combinations of Steph McCaffrey, Nkem Ezurike, and Morgan Marlborough. The impact mostly falls on the defense, which will have no defensive subs available unless Durkin pushes a midfielder or forward into the role.
The back line may hold up better under pressure this time, though, as Julie King continues to return to 100% match fitness. Durkin said he kept King in the center against WNY and pushed Rachel Wood wide "because it's only her second game and she's not fit and you can see in the second half. It's hard for her to lead because she's just trying to survive herself at this point."
"I think it's just kind of the details now," Mewis said. "We have to take care of the details on and off the field. Tom's been really getting on us about the details this week and I think that if we can get those right it will really help us."
The game will stream live on NWSL’s youtube channel at 5 PM ET.