The Boston Breakers have lost four in a row. They haven’t won a game since April 29, when they took the Reign apart 3-0. They’ve gotten one of a possible 15 points in their last five games. They’re back at the bottom of the NWSL table. And they have to turn around after their 1-0 loss on Saturday and play the Houston Dash away midweek.
Houston? They’ve been struggling too. They have a choppy defense and they just lost key forward Kealia Ohai to an ACL injury. But they did just beat the Orlando Pride 2-0 through the work of one Carli Lloyd, freshly returned from English shores and ready to prove she can still make or break a midfield.
As for Boston, they’re still out Rose Lavelle and Abby Smith, though Matt Beard hopes to have Allysha Chapman back and fit to play tomorrow. Rosie White will also return from her suspension for yellow card accumulation, bringing back another midfield option who can possibly help break a back line and target Natasha Dowie. Boston was very much lacking someone to make that incisive final run in their last game against the North Carolina Courage. If Lavelle were returning as well, that would go a long way to helping assuage worries that Boston will stay locked out of the 18-yard-box but she’s not, and so the team will continue to look Morgan Andrews.
To Andrews’ credit, she’s been making the most of getting more playing time, and against NC she was often the one trying to put the ball into dangerous position, albeit in different ways from Lavelle. But if Andrews has been more putting the ball in from deep positions, she can also crash the box, and Boston looked better when she had the freedom to push higher against NC. Putting Andrews, White, Leon, Haavi, and Dowie in the box at the same time could finally yield some results, assuming they’ve finally found the confidence to get in there. And confidence has been a problem.
“We’ve just got to make better decisions in the final third,” said Beard after the Breakers loss to NC on Saturday. “We’re shooting when we should be passing and we’re passing when we should be shooting, just little things like that. And that comes down to confidence.”
But at least on the other end of the pitch the team should be holding up better. The defense mostly held up against NC and they could be getting Allysha Chapman back after she got injured during the latest FIFA window playing for Canada. Hopefully Chapman is nice and rested, allowing backup left back Brooke Elby to catch her breath and deal with an ankle injury Beard says has been nagging her.
Fans should also look to goalkeeper Sammy Jo Prudhomme to build on her good start from Saturday. If she and the back line can stay organized, they’ll mostly have to worry about long-range shots from Lloyd, although someone like Houston’s Rachel Daly can nip through the space between center backs like a cat bolting for an open door.
Most of all, the Breakers are a team that is in a period of constant little shifts to compensate for a growing laundry list of injuries, big and small. Though the starting back line should be intact tomorrow, the midfield still has players jumping in and out of the starting XI, and that’s not good for building a rhythm. Everyone just needs to stay calm, focus on the beat, and trust that the rest of their team knows the moves.
Boston Breakers vs Houston Dash coverage starts at 8:30 PM ET with kickoff at 9:00 PM on Wednesday, June 28 at BBVA Compass Stadium and will stream live on go90.