By a quirk of scheduling, the Boston Breakers will face the Portland Thorns at home, then will turn around and fly out to Portland to face them away. There’s two macro level issues at stake here: Boston wanting to make sure that home games are wins more often than not, and seeing if they can re-balance the scales between themselves and Portland.
Boston has had some of their wackiest results when it comes to the Thorns. In 2014, under former head coach Tom Durkin, Portland was the team they beat the most, including an entirely surprising 4-1 win using a mix of unexpected players. In 2015, they lost more than they won against Portland, including a 5-2 loss, and 2016 was another wash with a 5-1 loss in September. So now the Breakers need to see if they can keep the turnaround going with a result against the Thorns, with the added need of making their home field really feel like home instead of being the site of loss after loss.
The Breakers are currently 2-2-1 and fourth in the league, with two wins and one loss at home. They also just tied Chicago 1-1 away and their defense seems to be holding fairly steady, late game lapse against the Red Stars notwithstanding. But what they really need is their midfield ready to go; Portland is susceptible to being dominated in the midfield right now thanks to the absence of Tobin Heath and ensuing discombobulation of Lindsey Horan and Amandine Henry. Close down Allie Long as well, and a lot of Boston’s work is done.
Of course they’ll need to watch out for Christine Sinclair, who can either turn on a dime to face up to goal with the ball at her feet, or drop deeper to help playmake, as she’s done recently. Christen Westphal, Megan Oyster, and Angela Salem will really have to coordinate that space between them to close off attempts at a final pass or a shot on goal. The Thorns also present a problem in the speedy Hayley Raso, who could push back Allysha Chapman’s attempts to press high on her side. But on the right side Boston can do some exploiting of their own; if Meghan Klingenberg plays, it’s a well-known fact she likes to spend roughly half her time as a forward, leaving space behind. Could this be a game when Rose Lavelle switches out to the right once again, in the hopes that Rosie White can hold the center? We’ll see.
If Boston were ever to start getting back some results against Portland, now is the time. The Thorns aren’t necessarily struggling, but they don’t look as sharp as they could. Boston has just about pulled free of last season’s miasma; no one watching their five games so far could realistically think they’re going to be as bad as last year. But bad games happen, and for this first third of the season it’s important they build up momentum, a bit of a reservoir of good juju. Matt Beard has said several times that Boston will win more games than they lose; it would be nice if they established that pattern early on, instead of having to climb out of a hole later in the season.
Boston vs Portland kicks off at 7:00 PM ET on Friday, May 19 at Jordan Field. It will stream live on go90, available on mobile and desktop.