NWSL is back! The Boston Breakers return to the swing of things with an away game against FC Kansas City this weekend, and they’ll be looking to continue their scoring streak. That’s right, Boston has scored in their last three games and they’re definitely hungry for more, especially after a tense 1-0 victory over the Orlando Pride at home that came on the heels of a five-game losing streak.
The last time these two teams met, the Breakers once again managed a nervy 1-0 win, but that was at home. When away, the Breakers have managed just two goals this season, and both came in losses.
So what’s different now?
First and foremost, the Breakers now have their full complement of international players. In addition to the return of Kyah Simon and Whitney Engen from the Olympics, new signings Natasha Dowie and Ghoutia Karchouni have had several weeks to integrate with the squad.
At a scrimmage against Harvard last week, head coach Matt Beard made several squad rotations, but seemed very interested in positioning Karchouni deeper in his midfield, allowing players like Louise Schillgard, Kristie Mewis, and Stephanie Verdoia to push higher.
“I was pleased with what [Karchouni’s] done today,” Beard said after the scrimmage. “You can see she’s got good passing ability, she links well. That’s something we have missed a little bit this year.”
With Karchouni and Angela Salem working as defensive mids in front of the back four, and Schillgard given another passing option in Mewis if she’s fit enough to play, that could provide a good network of connectivity behind Dowie as either a sole striker or paired with someone like Eunice Beckmann, Kyah Simon, or Elise Krieghoff. Krieghoff saw her fair share of time in that scrimmage against Harvard and Beard might be counting on her to deliver hard shots at range from the right.
“We’ve had a team that performed well against Orlando,” Beard said, “So Whitney coming back next week, Kyah coming back next week, we’ve got Mewis back probably 80% fit, I’ve got some decisions to make now, which is good to have.”
As for FCKC, they’ve had a mixed bag recently, with three losses and two wins in their last five. They’re eighth on the table but with five games to go and fifteen points on the line, could still find a way to push into a playoff position, assuming other teams take key losses.
They’ll also have their Olympians back, particularly Becky Sauerbrunn and (possibly) Desiree Scott to anchor things defensively. Also of note is Tiffany McCarty, who kept Chicago on their toes with penetrating runs. She’ll try to split Boston’s defense, making it imperative for Engen and Julie King to communicate well. If Boston can close down space in the midfield and deny McCarty through balls while pinching off her runs, they can combine that with quick ball movement out to the wings, where Beard seems to want to keep Christen Westphal and Brooke Elby as his high-ranging fullbacks.
Beard also rotated Brittany Ratcliffe during the scrimmage, moving her all over the field as necessary, which may point to her being used as a versatile super-sub rather than starter. Meanwhile hopefully Boston will be able to make good use of Simon and Dowie as a fairly pacey pair, perhaps splitting defensive attention and either giving Dowie some space to shoot, or allowing Simon the freedom to pounce late and clean up rebounds and loose balls.
Boston Breakers vs FC Kansas City kicks off at 6 PM ET on Sunday, August 28 at Swope Soccer Village. The game will stream live on NWSL’s youtube channel.