The Boston Breakers are not known for their heartiness on the road. They've lost all their away games this season and lost or tied every single away game last season. The last time they won away game was July 25, 2014, against the Western New York Flash.
Now that the last-place Breakers are facing first-place Chicago away, can they break the pattern?
The Red Stars are undefeated in their last seven games after stumbling out of the gate against Houston, and while they've had some pretty tight scorelines against a variety of opponents (including a 1-0 win against Boston), they definitely present more of an attacking threat, mainly through Christen Press and her terrifying shot volume and accuracy.
Chicago could also create a lot of questions for Boston in how to break them down defensively as well. Part of that will be luring Julie Johnston out of position or taking advantage of Samantha Johnson not being as positionally aware in the box.
First and foremost the Breakers will have to get near the box, and there are even more question marks there. Will Kristie Mewis be recovered from her ankle sprain in time to play this game? Who will fill in the midfield gap left by the departure of McCall Zerboni? Will Eunice Beckmann be more match fit?
There aren't a ton of good options for the defensive mid hole. You could ask Angela Salem to stay deeper to shield the back line while someone like Louise Schillgard plays a true 10 role in front of her. You could ask Katie Schoepfer to step into the role she played last season, to not great results. You could even possibly ask Rachel Wood to step in; she's played holding mid before.
Head coach Matt Beard may rely on his five-back system to help deal with the gap, and that center defensive trio of Whitney Engen, Kassey Kallman, and Julie King has done pretty well when they've been asked to function that way. If Julie King stays at home a little more, it may mitigate the loss of their main DM and allow Salem and Schillgard to move up into the attack more freely.
If Schillgard does stay more centrally, and if Mewis isn't ready to play, then that opens up the question of who pushes wide left for Boston. Beckmann could, but she needs to stay central to remain most effective, and Stephanie McCaffrey will probably slot in on the right, especially if she's still on the same form she was on in the last game against the Spirit. Really, Breakers fans should just hope that Mewis is better by tomorrow's game.
Zerboni leaving is not the worst blow that could befall this team (we already saw that when Engen was away on national duty and the team suffered its worst loss of the season against the Flash). She does leave a gap, but because of the five-back formation with Mollie Pathman and Brooke Elby pushing high, it's not as dire as it could be.
The real question, as it has been all season, is how is this team going to score. No one seems able to finish, and every single post-game presser has featured a portion on needing to be more mercenary around the net. If someone - anyone - on this team can find their finish, then at the very least Boston can hope to leave Chicago without giving them a clean sheet.