In their last home game of the season, the Boston Breakers face the Washington Spirit.
It would be nice to leave their home field with a win, but that could be a tall order. The Spirit currently have league-leading goalscorer Crystal Dunn on their side, and the Breakers defense most recently cracked under high pressure from the Thorns. Now they're playing in their third game in a week after flying to Portland and back, and they're being asked to contain Crystal Dunn, who most recently scored a hat trick in one half against the Houston Dash, and even though the Spirit are traveling, they're not traveling that far and they've had a solid week of rest since their last game.
The Spirit are 7-4-3 on the season and third in the league. We all know where the Breakers stand. But the curse of the sports fan is to live eternally with the smallest spark of hope, no matter how bleak things get.
The Breakers are last in the league, everyone is super tired, and goals are scarce?
Well Kristie Mewis could still score at any given time. You never know. Stephanie McCaffrey could go on one of her deep runs all the way to the end line and find Kyah Simon in the box. Julie King could get her head onto the ball far post during a corner kick. Katie Schoepfer could take one of her blistering long range shots and sink one in the back of the net. Maddy Evans or Nkem Ezurike or Morgan Marlborough could find themselves in the right spot at the right time and poach one.
So there's always hope, slender and faint as it may be.
Will Diana Matheson and Christine Nairn dance through Boston's midfield? Will Joanna Lohman put up stiff resistance in the middle of the park? Will Ali Krieger and her back line prove impervious to attack? Will Ashlyn Harris stuff all but the best-placed shots? Will Crystal Dunn continue emphatically to make her case for rejoining the national team roster?
But there's always hope.
What it really comes down to is if Boston's back line can keep it together for 90 minutes. Julie King is back from her one-game suspension and is theoretically rested, though she did travel with the team to Portland. Mollie Pathman is no doubt thinking hard about some errors from the Portland game that resulted in goals and may end up sticking tighter to Kassey Kallman's lead rather than attempting to get forward too much. Lauren Lazo may start at right back, or Durkin may once again attempt to rotate in Maddy Evans or Rachel Wood.
The Spirit have a lot of midfield talent looking for Dunn, so Amy Barczuk and Katie Schoepfer will also have to be on their toes to disrupt any buildup that might find her.
All that being said, if every piece of the puzzle that is the Breakers manages to fit together on the day, there's still hope. It's a flickering candle flame in a windstorm, on the verge of guttering out, but it's there. Maybe it's cruel to offer hope like this, and it might be wiser to just go into this game not expecting anything but to remain at the bottom of the table. Who ever said being a sports fan was wise?
Breakers vs. Spirit kicks off at 7 PM ET on Saturday, August 8 at Soldiers Field and will stream live on NWSL's youtube channel.