The Boston Breakers are in their second week away from home as they take on the Orlando Pride away on Saturday. They’re coming off a loss and two ties - ties which could have been wins, but for letting the other team back in the game in the second half.
Orlando’s recent results are a mixed bag too, with a loss, tie, and a win, although that win was an exultant 3-1 handling of the previously invincible-seeming North Carolina Courage. Which team will show up on the day, good Orlando or bad Orlando? Both good and bad have Marta, so that’s probably first on the list of offensive threats to counter by Boston. They’ll be down a defender, with Allysha Chapman suspended on a red card. Does Matt Beard just shift to a three-back, give Rose Lavelle some extra support in midfield, and try to overwhelm Orlando’s at-times shaky defense? Or does he look to Brooke Elby to slot in on the left and hope she can deal with Marta or Jasmyne Spencer?
Orlando doesn’t have the same midfield quality as Portland, so it’s less likely they’ll be able to take Lavelle out of the game the way the Thorns did. That’s good news, because without Chapman, that makes it even more important that Boston have the middle and right channels open for attacking. Considering Orlando has the ability to very quickly work the ball up the left through Steph Catley and Marta, that central channel may be Boston’s main mode of attack. After all, despite her stand-up play for Australia, for club Alanna Kennedy has shown herself strangely vulnerable. If Natasha Dowie can get one good turn in front of goal, that’ll open up the scoring for Boston.
There’s also the Haavi question. She had her first start and full 90 against Portland as Boston’s left mid and definitely looked like someone who hadn’t played competitively for a while. Which is not to say she was bad, but that the timing and trust weren’t quite there yet, and if there’s an equally unfamiliar left back behind her, she might be counting a lot more on Rose Lavelle to find her and open up passing channels for her, when she’s not helping Angela Salem break Orlando pressure deeper in the midfield.
Defensively, Boston will have to stay tight. Orlando showed against North Carolina they can get in behind, whether through Spencer, Marta, Camila, or former Breaker Jamia Fields. Should Elby come in on the left, that makes her ability to communicate with CB Christen Westphal even more important.
One more thing to consider here is that Orlando will be without their starting keeper as Ashlyn Harris is out with a quad injury. Backup Aubrey Bledsoe is capable, but not as good, and not as familiar with her defense, providing another vulnerability for Boston to exploit.
This is a game Boston needs to win in order to keep any of the momentum they built up earlier. They still haven’t won on the road, and the sooner they do that, the sooner they can get on with truly embodying the new season-new team idea.
Boston vs Orlando kicks off at 7:30 PM ET on Saturday, June 3. The game will stream on NWSLSoccer.com.