As you may remember, the last time the Boston Breakers played the Seattle Reign, Boston put together a highly entertaining and entirely surprising 3-0 victory at home. That was the night Adriana Leon played like the reputation of the entire nation of Canada was on the line, coming through with a goal and two assists.
But things are different now from that early game. First, Rose Lavelle, who scored Boston’s second goal, is out on injury. Also, Amanda Da Costa and Allysha Chapman are ou, Da Costa away at the Euros and Chapman after picking up her fifth yellow card. Midfielder Emilie Haavo is also out for the Euros and it’s a tossup over whether Abby Smith or Sammy Jo Prudhomme will start in goal. Smith should be back from a little knee rest and rehab, but Prudhomme is on a shutout streak.
On the Seattle side of things, Megan Rapinoe has definitely returned to 100% and has been wreaking havoc across the league. North Carolina figured out how to contain her as they most recently beat Seattle 2 - 0, pinning her back and denying her a lot of opportunities to push forward on the left for Seattle. Boston will have to see if they can do the same thing. That could mean asking Julie King to really nail down her side of the pitch, with Megan Oyster and Angela Salem covering in behind. Salem for sure will have to be solid, both in forcing the turnover and in setting up the ball while Boston is still inside their own half. But at the very least Seattle won’t have midfielder Jess Fishlock available, with Fishlock out a couple more weeks with an MCL injury.
But that really is the key: lock down Rapinoe. Of course Rumi Utsugi and Carson Pickett are no slouches at helping to underpin that wily left-sided attack but if Rapinoe is kept away from the attacking third and Boston can overload on their own left side, leaving Nahomi Kawasumi high and dry, then maybe they have a shot at not frantically absorbing pressure and searching for the odd way out.
Keeping Rapinoe at bay is only 50 or 60% of the equation here, though. Matt Beard has had to pull Natasha Dowie deeper into his formation to compensate for some of the losses to his roster, and that puts some pressure on Adriana Leon and Rosie White to really be in the right space at the right time. Leon as we’ve seen can switch right and left as needed, so that Morgan Andrews - Leon corridor could become very important in getting the attack set for someone - anyone to finish the final ball in.
It’s going to be a tough game. With Chapman out once again, that will probably see Brooke Elby returning to the lineup. She’s undoubtedly a tough customer, but she also doesn’t have quite the same ability to really push the ball up the flank like Chapman can. Boston really needs to be able to release Dowie higher on the field, or let Morgan Andrews take a stab at it. Or perhaps if Dowie is going to be held back deeper anyway, it’s time for a Dowie #10 experiment. Really, some player needs to take the responsibility of simply taking the shots that Boston has been lacking. As Michael Scott says Wayne Gretzky says, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.