Have you heard? The Boston Breakers don’t suck anymore.
Sure, they’re still bottom of the table, but they just won their first away game in forever, got their first back-to-back wins of the season, and have managed to score goals five games in a row when they started the season not scoring a single goal in the first five. In fact, Boston managed just three goals in the first 10 games of the season. In the last five? Six goals. So clearly progress is being made, and now the Breakers will continue to test themselves against ninth-place Houston.
Houston has had their fair share of troubles this season too. They’ve got great players with a slightly deeper bench, but have had trouble finishing out games. Their last win was on July 16, a 3-0 takedown of Portland at home.
Still, they’ll have some advantages going into this game against Boston. Carli Lloyd should be available to strengthen their midfield for this game, and Morgan Brian will probably be fit enough for at least a solid 70, if not a full 90. Brian is so good at orchestrating the play from deep that Boston’s back line will have to keep a very close eye on a lot of potential runners, not least of which is Canadian international Janine Beckie. But there’s also Kealia Ohai and Denise O’Sullivan and maybe Rachel Daly to watch out for, depending on the lineup.
That’ll mean keeping the back line tight, and that’ll mean Brooke Elby keeping a closer eye on when she can push forward and when she needs to stay home. Admittedly, the Dash don’t have a Heather O’Reilly to really punish Elby like she did in last weekend’s game against FC Kansas City, but as Elby settles in as the starting left back, that communication with her other defenders needs to settle down more.
There’s also the question of the deeper integration of Ghoutia Karchouni into the lineup. Against FCKC, Matt Beard started Katie Schoepfer as Angela Salem’s d-mid partner and it eventually paid off with a goal as she was able to get in good position to let one rip from distance, the general method of Shep goals. Schoepfer also had some ok ball distribution, but in her short time on the field, Karchouni just looked more comfortable on the ball and more aware of the play developing ahead of her. If she’s ready for at least a half, it could be interesting to see her continue to wade into the NWSL pool.
As for attackers, even though Natasha Dowie didn’t score against FCKC, she did play merry havoc a few times and the team should continue to try and spring her loose whenever possible. Dowie was unlucky not to get on the score sheet against FCKC; it took a pretty heroic tip from GK Nicole Barnhart to push Dowie’s shot away from the upper 90.
Brittany Ratcliffe also had a good game and showed she can make good runs around the box while doing her best to pick out Dowie in front of goal, which makes an argument for her as a starter over Kyah Simon, who subbed in for 29’ against FCKC and probably won’t be ready for more than a half this time.
With Simon and Kristie Mewis back and Karchouni warming up to the league’s pace, Beard has a lot of options in the attack that he didn’t necessarily have before. There’s also Louise Schillgard’s ability to go left or right as needed and switch up the point of attack. Schillgard is lowkey one of the most vital pieces on this team, and their continued work in successfully moving the ball through her is finally paying off.
The Breakers might lose; progress like this generally never charts on a strictly straight line. What’s important to watch for are continued patient possession all over the field and staying calm in the event they go down a goal. Boston’s possession game has improved by leaps and bounds and if they combine that with waiting for just the right moment for Dowie to peel off the shoulder of her defender, so much the better.
Boston Breakers vs. Houston Dash kicks off at 8 PM ET at Jordan Field and will stream live on NWSL’s youtube channel.