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Match preview: Boston vs North Carolina rematch

HOW many players are out for Boston?

First, listen to some Ray Lamontagne. Then resume reading this match preview.

Okay, now you’re in the right mindset to think about this rematch between the Boston Breakers and the North Carolina Courage. NC beat Boston in their away game last weekend, taking a very early 2-0 lead, and eventually beating them 3-1.

In the course of that game Rosie White picked up her fifth overall yellow card, resulting in an automatic one-game suspension. And not even halfway through the season! Every team has a yellow card sponge and White is Boston’s this season, it looks like. On top of injuries, this means that Boston will be without usual starters White, Rose Lavelle, Allysha Chapman, and Abby Smith - and North Carolina will almost certainly have their most threatening forward, Lynn Williams, back from injury.

Head coach Matt Beard has provided his answers for some of his personnel problems already; Brooke Elby has taken over at left back for Chapman and Morgan Andrews partnered up with Angela Salem in midfield to be that support for the front line. Adding White’s absence into the mix may mean asking someone like Amanda DaCosta to really step up and help deal with NC’s ability to pressure heavily in the midfield. Emilie Haavi will also be on call here, and rookie goalkeeper Sammy Jo Prudhomme is almost certain to take the net for the first time.

Prudhomme comes with some big time college bona fides, but this will be a heck of an introduction to the league should she start. The Courage are last year’s league champions and currently on top of the standings, tied for the best goal differential. But they are beatable. Chicago did it twice in May, and Orlando did it too. In their last defeat of NC, Chicago used quick ball movement to get in behind NC’s defense and capitalize on any disorganization as they recovered their shape. Boston is certainly capable of bursting the ball along the wing, but that final ball to an attacker whether that’s Natasha Dowie or Midge Purce or Adriana Leon has been utterly lacking. If Boston can sharpen it up on their home field, they may be able to improve over recent results.

That sharpening very much applies to the defense as well; in their last three games, Boston let in two goals within fifteen minutes. Beard has said, at least against North Carolina, that was down to “individual mistakes,” and fans should definitely take into account that the back four have had to deal with several big changes. Megan Oyster has been in and out of that line with injury, and of course Chapman’s absence means re-adjusting to Brooke Elby. The DJ keeps changing the beat and they’re all doing their best to compensate, but not many people can handle those transitions without missing a step.

So. Get Dowie the ball more often and in better position. Move quickly, and perhaps do your best to avoid NC’s Sam Mewis and McCall Zerboni in the center. DO NOT go down early then spend the rest of the game climbing back out of the hole instead of actually advancing. And please, please, please, no more injuries.

Of note, this is Boston’s LGBT Pride Night. Boston vs North Carolina kicks off at 4 PM ET on Saturday, June 24. It will stream live on go90 and NWSLSoccer.com (available to both domestic and international viewers this weekend).