As much as Breakers fans might want to ignore their last game, you have to take into account past performance when trying to predict future results. And past performance has not been super encouraging.
Their last result wasn’t that long ago, a 1-1 draw with Washington, but of course things got worse and worse, first a 3-0 loss against Chicago, then a 7-1 loss against the WNY Flash.
The singular bright spot is that the Breakers finally scored a goal from open play (and then promptly got crushed under a tidal wave of goals) when Christen Westphal hit this stunner from outside the 18.
In an interview at training this week, head coach Matt Beard had this to say about getting his team to perform on the road:
“Look, at home we're doing well. We've just beat Kansas, we've drawn with Washington. We was in all the other games. You know we got beaten by a world class strike by Christen [Press] and set play by Portland. From that side of things we need to get back to the confidence and the ruggedness of the performances at home to put in on the road and I think we're going to see that this weekend, I really do.”
So what can Boston do to bring that ruggedness to Seattle? They did just sign a new center mid in French international Ghoutia Karchouni, but her paperwork is still processing and then she’ll have to go through a physical to get approved to play. In the meantime, Boston will be without WNT player Whitney Engen. Kyah Simon will still be onboard as the Australian players in NWSL aren’t departing for their Olympic camps just yet.
For Seattle, that means being without Hope Solo, though backup goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer is a more than adequate replacement. They’ll also have the services of Japanese international Nahomi Kawasumi, though Rumi Utsugi is yet to arrive. Kawasumi on her own presents an incredible threat from wide, and the back line will have to be on their guard to prevent her from creating any service for the likes of Beverly Yanez or Kim Little.
It looks likely that Beard will be giving some of his rookies more time, including Westphal. He might also be considering Rachel Wood to continue helping bandage over the hole left by McCall Zerboni at defensive mid, especially since a four-back is more likely with Engen gone. Much will depend on whoever is sitting at DM to help control Kim Little and prevent her from getting into good position in the box or disrupting her passing from the middle of the park.
That four back will likely scoot Julie King back into the center, leaving the wings to Mollie Pathman and Brooke Elby, assuming Pathman starts. Christen Westphal may start again, but if King is shifted inside, that leaves a need at right back that Elby has been filling of late.
The other questions are a) whether Kristie Mewis will be healthy for this game and b) whether Stephanie McCaffrey will get any playing time after being held out of the Flash game. McCaffrey, so vital last season, has seen limited minutes this season, and could be a valuable tool in prying open some defenses if she’s in form and motivated.
Seattle’s recent form hasn’t been so hot either, with two 0-0 draws against FC Kansas City and Sky Blue FC, and a narrow 1-0 win over Houston before that. They’re at seventh on the table and surely looking to pick up what they think will be easy points, and perhaps a bump to their goal differential.
Boston has shown it can hold a team to narrow results before, so with some minor tweaking to push around Engen’s absence (King and Kassey Kallman are very familiar with each other as center back partners), it shouldn’t be impossible against Seattle. That goal by Westphal against the Flash actually is progress, though it was immediately eclipsed by the breakdown that followed; more like it could finally open the door to more Boston goals. It remains to be seen if the team can remain psychologically strong should anything go wrong against Seattle.
Boston vs Seattle kicks off on Saturday, July 2, at 10 PM ET. It will stream live on NWSL’s youtube channel.