So here we are. Bottom of the table. We've fallen off the cliff, plummeted through the air, and now we're wallowing in the depths. You know what that means? There's nothing left to lose.
Sure, Boston could fight tooth and nail for every single one of the 18 points left to win. They should do that anyway, regardless of whether a playoff spot is possible. (Technically it still is, but so many teams would have to lose in baffling fashion that it's a pretty big statistical unlikelihood.) Maybe spoil other teams' winning streaks or knock someone out of the top four. Players and fans are human, and we've all got our pride. Put together a few wins to close out the season with some optimism. Go for broke, Boston!
That being said, Seattle is still the number one team in the standings (at the moment) and this is going to be one hell of a fight. Rafinha is out with a right ankle sprain and Bia is questionable. This doesn't necessarily impact Boston's midfield that much with their long national team absences and other injuries, but it limits Coach Tom Durkin in his substitutions.
Durkin rested several of his key players last week against Sky Blue, and they finally got more than a few days without a game, so hopefully the team will be in much better shape to resist Seattle. Stephanie McCaffrey, Maddy Evans, and Lauren Lazo all had reduced minutes against Sky Blue and will probably go back into the starting lineup. Where Lazo and Evans go could be a matter for debate - Durkin has shown that he's willing to ask Evans to be a hardass on the flanks while Lazo flexes her attacking skills.
Durkin will probably also look intensely at his midfield in order to deal with the Seattle Reign. Starting Reign goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer is out with a foot sprain, and so is blonde on blonde spark plug Megan Rapinoe, but Laura Harvey's quintessential midfield trio of Jessica Fishlock, Keelin Winters, and Scottish phenom Kim Little remains intact. Much will depend on Katie Schoepfer and Amy Barczuk to lock down space in front of the back line. Durkin may also send Evans at that Seattle midfield, perhaps looking to disrupt as much to possess. Evans possesses both tenacity and the ability to keep a steady workrate over 90 minutes - perhaps an experiment with her as a pure d-mid is in order, which would release Schoepfer to play higher and pepper the Reign's third-choice keeper with more hard long-range shots.
The Boston back line will need to watch not just that midfield, but forward Beverly Yanez, who struck twice in Seattle's 3-0 dismantling of Portland. Yanez leads the team with eight goals in 14 games and knows how to get in the box and capitalize on a Little or Fishlock ball.
Her reciprocal number, Kyah Simon, has had some time now to settle in with the team and should be more comfortable anticipating runs and moving into openings left behind when Mewis or McCaffrey are in possession. Based on the chances they've created with each other so far, a more cohesive attack could definitely yield one or two goals, possibly more. That's quite a "could" though.
Of note, this game will serve as an official farewell to longtime Breakers defender and captain Cat Whitehill.
The game kicks off on Saturday, August 1 at 4 PM ET at Soldiers Field and will be live-streamed on NWSL's youtube channel.