Boston faltered last weekend away at FC Kansas City, coming out with a 2-0 loss. Now they return home to face Sky Blue FC at Jordan Field, and this time they really need a performance to set the tone for the rest of the season. If FCKC away was the practice test, Boston has now had time to revise and needs to do better on the real exam.
Of particular concern is the defense. Matt Beard put untested rookie Midge Purce on the back line as an RB, converting her from forward, and asked her to keep an eye on Sydney Leroux. Leroux scored in the 7’. He also had Megan Oyster and Christen Westphal as his CBs; both of them got hosed by Amy Rodriguez until they managed to tighten up a little bit and deny her so much space.
Sky Blue FC has their own pair of devastating forward to watch out for in Sam Kerr and Kelley O’Hara, meaning the Breakers back line had better have learned their lesson in KC and adjusted with a quickness. Perhaps Beard will turn to a veteran defender instead of Purce, depending on who on his roster is healthy. Julie King’s absence in the last game would seem to indicate that a nagging preseason injury is still in play, despite her name not being on Boston’s injury list.
Sky Blue also has a dangerous midfielder in Raquel Rodriguez, who is good at putting balls into space for her teammates and taking runs for herself. She can definitely score from distance, making it essential for Angela Salem to shut her down quickly.
The good news for Boston is that Salem is probably up to the task, and the rest of the Boston midfield does show promise. Rose Lavelle didn’t have the most dazzling debut, but had her moments, and Rosie White is showing herself to be a good soccer mind who can open up play with simple passing. That passing is something Boston desperately needs as a way to put Natasha Dowie in play; she’ll have a hard time of it under the watchful eye of Sky Blue’s veteran CB Christie Pearce. But overall Boston’s midfield is probably stronger than the Seattle Reign’s, and midfield is where Sky Blue dominated Seattle last weekend despite the 1-1 tie.
In sum total, Sky Blue are pretty solid all over the field, while Boston’s defense is a work in progress. They’ll need to either pull it together on the back line, or hope the offense is able to score one more than Sky Blue. Either way, this is the second half of Boston’s chances to set the tone for the season. A loss away and a loss at home would cast a familiar gloom over proceedings and make it harder to dig out of a hole, rather than start out on a more even keel. It’s a mental test as much as anything, and hopefully with so many new faces onboard, Beard can get the team to pass.
Boston Breakers vs Sky Blue FC kicks off at 4 PM ET on Sunday, April 23 at Jordan Field. The game will stream live on go90 in the United States and on nwslsoccer.com internationally.