The Boston Breakers haven't won an away game yet. The team will be looking to get that monkey off its back this weekend against the Washington Spirit—a tall order, considering the Spirit have looked hot to trot this season with the likes of Crystal Dunn and Christine Nairn running the show for them.
The Spirit are sitting just above the Breakers in the standings at second in the league with 13 points from eight games played, while the Breakers are in third with 10 points from seven games played. The Spirit have also lost some players to injuries (Diana Matheson: out, then gone for the World Cup. Estefania Banini: out for repairs to cartilage in her right knee.) while key attacker Crystal Dunn was called upon to flit in and out of training in order to train with the USWNT while they prepared for the World Cup.
The come-and-go doesn't seem to have negatively affected Dunn, however, who responded to being yo-yo'd between club and country by going on a tear for the Spirit. Dunn is on six goals and two assists in eight games and shows no signs of slowing down, especially now that her national commitment has come to a close for the time being. Limiting service to her will be key.
" Definitely do not try to let her get played over the top," said Breakers defender Kassey Kallman after practice on Thursday. "She's so fast and that's what she does to teams, is she stretches them out and she gets the ball over the top and she's really dangerous. So just trying to keep her in front of us, try to keep numbers around her, and try to limit her from being a playmaker in the game."
Another key to the game for Washington is stylish midfielder Christine Nairn, who can score about as well as she can orchestrate play through the middle. Nairn is backed up by former Breaker Joanna Lohman who will look to control the pace from deep and interrupt attacking flow from Boston.
Boston must find a way to create attack through points other than Kristie Mewis and Stephanie McCaffrey. Even if they draw players away and create openings elsewhere on the field, those openings aren't being filled. With usual starter Rafinha added last-minute to the Brazilian World Cup roster, it now falls to tenacious midfielder Maddy Evans to help dictate offensive pressure. Strikers Morgan Marlborough and Nkem Ezurike will need to step up as well and find their finish.
On defense the Breakers should be whole, with right fullback Lauren Lazo returned to the fold after attending her graduation from Princeton last weekend. If the defensive quartet of Julie King, Kassey Kallman, Amy Barczuk, and Katie Schoepfer can stay unified, then Boston will at least come out of this having taken some points off of Washington.
The Breakers are keenly aware that they have yet to win on the road. Kristie Mewis has repeatedly attributed this to being comfortable on their home field and not translating their game plan well while away. If they can stick to the plan and execute it for 90 minutes, the Breakers might find themselves tied for second in the league standings. If not, it's back to the middle of the pack and the drawing board.
The game will stream live on NWSL's youtube channel on Saturday, June 6 at 7PM ET.