The Boston Breakers host Seattle at Jordan Field this Saturday, fresh off a 1-0 win against Sky Blue FC. What they’re looking for now is a second win in a row to really cement the feeling of turning over a new leaf. For that, they’ll need to contend with the Reign, who had a victory of their own last weekend: stomping the Houston Dash 5-1. We asked our friend Susie Rantz at Sounder at Heart to help preview Seattle and see what exactly is in store for Boston this weekend.
1. Seattle just beat Houston 5-1. What were the particular strengths of Seattle you felt helped them beat Houston?
Laura Harvey always says, "Goals change games." Seattle put those goals away against Houston, and did so at the right time. In addition, Seattle's midfield was much more dominant against Houston. Having Rumi Utsugi in the midfield allows Jess Fishlock and Christine Nairn to push higher up the field. Fishlock played more of a holding midfield role against Sky Blue, and the attack suffered because of it. Against Houston, Fishlock has seven shots, and five of them were on target. She also had 71 touches and 47 total passes. Fishlock is the key link between the defense and the attack, and it scares me to think what might happen if she misses games this season.
Houston also had so few attacking chances because Laura Harvey's defend-from-the-front style of play was executed really effectively last weekend. Instead of chasing the ball like the team did against Sky Blue, they broke up plays and limited balls into the midfield and up front. If Kealia Ohai or Rachel Daly can't get the ball early and often, they aren't going to have many chances. If Seattle can keep doing that, teams are going to have a really hard time finding the back of the net frequently.
2. How much of a game changer for Seattle is it having Rapinoe back at or near 100%?
It is so huge. Megan Rapinoe, when she is at her best, is the kind of player teams hate to defend. She is so unpredictable, and can whip in a cross or get a shot off when you least expect it. Her goal last week was absolutely ridiculous, and she has started to play with some of the swagger that made her such a threat in the 2015 Women's World Cup. While her touch was rusty in the first match, she found more of her form last week. She also found a nice rhythm with Reign FC left back Carson Pickett, and the two of them could prove to be a nightmare for opponents this year. If Rapinoe manages to stay healthy and mentally strong, she could put in an MVP-worthy season.
3. Is Haley Kopmeyer actually going to be the make or break player for Seattle? If not, who do you think is the key Seattle player to watch this weekend?
My short answer is that I hope she doesn't have to be. My longer answer is that I think Haley Kopmeyer is going to prove to the league how high her ceiling is this season. Week 1 wasn't an anomaly. Kopmeyer worked incredibly hard under Hope Solo, and even harder this offseason, to get prepared for this starting role. Teams are going to find ways to pressure Reign FC's defense and get shots off, and it is a testament to Kopmeyer that goalkeeper wasn't a position that concerned fans in the offseason, where the squad lost a number of crucial starters. I'm not sure if she'll be a make-or-break player, but she will certainly put in a few more great saves for the highlight reel.
I think Christine Nairn could be a player to watch this weekend. She is still working into her role on this squad, but looked so much more comfortable against Houston. If Boston pays too much attention to Fishlock, Nairn will be waiting to pounce. In addition, her passing and vision should unlock some dangerous runs of players like Bev Yanez and Naho Kawasumi, who are both lethal in front of goal. If the Breakers give the Reign midfield too much time and space with the ball, they are going to get punished.
Boston Breakers vs Seattle Reign kicks off at 7 PM ET at Jordan Field on Saturday, April 29. It will stream live on go90.