It's another hectic week for the Boston Breakers with a midweek away game all the way across the country in Portland. They face the Thorns on Wednesday for the last time this season, having previously lost to them 4-1 in their first game, then beating them 1-0 at home.
How have they fared since those games?
Both teams have had some bad non-winning streaks, with the Thorns going seven games without a win from late April to the end of June, followed by a three-game losing streak in July.
Meanwhile, the Breakers haven't won since May 30, going 0-6-2 and earning a possible two points out of 24.
The Breakers are now rock bottom, while the Thorns sit in seventh place—but just four points out of playoff position. The Thorns also have their full contingent of international players back, although a few of them are on the injured list, like Rhian Wilkinson and Alex Morgan, who had minor knee surgery in mid-July. But the Thorns do have Christine Sinclair and, theoretically, Jodie Taylor, both major goalscoring threats.
On the flipside, Durkin may take aim at Portland's midfield, where Allie Long has been struggling this season after a strong start that has gradually faded away. This could force Sinclair to drop deep and turn provider, as she is often called upon to do when her club or country is struggling, limiting Portland's options up top. It depends on whether Durkin decides to go with his starters in the hopes that he can rotate at least some of them for Boston's clash with the Washington Spirit just three days after Portland, or if he decides to try to save one or two players to spread their efforts over both away games.
The biggest area of concern for Boston is central defense. Julie King picked up a one-game suspension after getting sent off against Seattle this past weekend for yellow card accumulation. Durkin tends to plug that King-shaped hole with Rachel Wood—and realistically, there's not really anyone else who could go there. Wood and Kallman will need to stay tight to avoid getting split by the likes of Sinclair, who can pick up a ball on the run and blow past defenders faster than you can say sweet maple syrup.
Don't expect the Breakers to maintain any kind of high temp. Any high pressing will naturally have to give way to the physical reality of tired bodies and travel-heavy legs. Boston may have to play a containment game while probing for an opportune counter or set piece, which is not terribly different from how they've played of late whether at home or away. If Kyah Simon is healthy, hopefully she'll be in position for a good look on goal, either from Kristie Mewis or perhaps Suzane Pires.
The Breakers are always capable of winning even when the chips are down—between Mewis, Simon, and Stephanie McCaffrey, you can't ever count out a moment of brilliance—so this game is definitely not a foregone conclusion. But it is realistic to acknowledge their grueling schedule and the probability that they'll get worn out by a home team that's had a full week of rest. If they win, that makes it all the more enjoyable.
Portland vs. Boston kicks off at 10 PM ET and will stream live on Fox Sports Go.