It's been a long season for Boston.
Oh, it's not over yet? There's still way more left to play? Great.
STARTING XI: Libby Stout, Mollie Pathman (52' Christen Westphal), Kassey Kallman, Whitney Engen, Julie King, Brooke Elby, Kristie Mewis (73' Rachel Wood), Angela Salem, Louise Schillgard, Stephanie McCaffrey (59' Eunice Beckmann), Kyah Simon
Let's just start with the bad stuff.
It wasn't the greatest night for the Boston defense. Chicago scored early in both halves, first in the 3' from Sofia Huerta deflecting the ball into the net, then in the 47' once again from Huerta. The third Chicago goal was in the 62' from Casey Short, who just managed to deflect the ball in ahead of her marker, Kassey Kallman.
Kallman did not have the greatest night. Beard was once again running a five back, but with his fullbacks Brooke Elby and Mollie Pathman being asked to sweep forward in the attack, they were often caught more in a three-back system that was at times shaky when trying to handle Chicago's offensive pressure, and sometimes didn't even have the excuse of numbers, like in the 70' when Christen Press was left wide open in the box to try a header that fortuantely went wide. Both halves started out weak for Boston, then gradually built forward as they settled into the game.
There was also the matter of a rather toothless offense. Stephanie McCaffrey continues to rebuild that sparky presence she had last season, although she didn't have a full 90 to really execute it this game. Kyah Simon has consistently been asked to drop deeper in the offense, but her playmaking is not her strongest suit, and she's being kept from her ability to dart in at goal and poach half chances. Kristie Mewis generally wasn't as involved as she needed to be, and looks like she's still recovering from her sprain if the sub is any indication.
Boston's offense generally looks like they just don't have it together whenever they get the ball around the 18. Either the ball gets sent in to little effect, or one player is in surrounded by defenders, or no one manages to get off a shot. The Breakers have certainly seen bad luck in the form of balls off the woodwork and goal-line clearances, but that aimlessness isn't bad luck, it's a combination of offensive players not being used correctly and not working together correctly.
But now the good stuff, because as depressing a season as it's been, it's nice to end on good things.
Eunice Beckmann is settling into the offense. She was one of the more creative players up there, and when she's involved around the 18, can certainly move the ball quickly into good position for a cross or player running in to shoot. The problem is finding players to get on the end of that ball. (Hint: one of those players needs to be Kyah Simon.)
Christen Westphal is also looking a little brighter, making some good movement on the flank and attempting some good one-on-ones deep in the attacking third.
Early goals aside, there were some good defensive moments. As usual Whitney Engen did her best to keep the back line together, and when she's on, she helps Boston absorb attacks without looking too panicked. There was a certain amount of panic in the Boston box tonight, but eventually it did die down as Boston pushed forward more and more.
Libby Stout made some key saves, especially at the end of the game when the defense got caught flat-footed on a through ball and Christen Press was able to run at Stout one on one. Stout cut off Press' angle and pushed her wide, preventing the game from going to 4-0.
Boston continues its winless streak on the road; they haven't won an away game in nearly two years, and they've lost every single away game this season. They're now 1-7-1 on the season with a -13 goal differential.
What to do, what to do? Especially if Whitney Engen ends up called away from the Olympics - we saw how that worked out for the Breakers when Engen was gone and they went down to the WNY Flash 4-0. The first step there is finding a better shield for the back line with McCall Zerboni gone. That might mean signing a new player or seeing if Rachel Wood is up to the job.
The next step is switching Beckmann and Simon and not forcing Simon into a role that is clearly not working out.
Then there's doing whatever it takes to fully re-light the fire under McCaffrey's butt. The Breakers have lost so much attacking pressure without her getting deep on the left or the right and it shows.
Those would be some good first steps. There might be deeper things they can work on between seasons in terms of drafting, trades, and other signings. But for now, this team needs a goal from open play very badly, and they're not going to get it the way things are going.
Boston next plays the WNY Flash on Friday, June 24 away at 7 PM ET.