The Boston Breakers aren’t last in the NWSL standings. They’re not even ninth. They’re number eight, baby, and if that sounds like damning them with faint praise, it’s really not. A win against Houston would see them climb into seventh, and that would truly be a much better position than last season. The top four are starting to pull away, but if Boston were in seventh with 17 points, that opens the door to really hovering midtable. So how is Boston gonna do it?
First, who’s in and who’s out for this game. Aside from the still-injured Rose Lavelle, Amanda Da Costa and Emilie Haavi are gone for Euros (Norway lost to Belgium and the Netherlands while Portugal has lost to Spain so far, so we may get one or both back early after group stage concludes). But Allysha Chapman should be back, fresh off serving her suspension for yellow card accumulation, and that’ll make the roster as full strength as it can be with players absent for international duty.
But Carli Lloyd should also be back for the Dash after serving her suspension for a red card and she’s generally been on the upswing for Houston. It’s important not just to deny her space between the midfield and defensive line, but to also be aware of her playing in a teammate. Lloyd has been decent at acting as provider from game to game and she has one quite good target in Rachel Daly and two sometimes good targets in Janine Beckie and Nichelle Prince. Both Daly and Beckie can get in behind off a sprung ball. There’s also the problem of Andressinha, who can definitely put the ball on frame at range and with Lloyd causing trouble may have the space to make plenty of outside-the-18 attempts.
In fact, the last time these two played, Matt Beard put five in the back, pushing up in a 4-4-2 and then pulling back with five on defense. Are we in for more of the same tomorrow? As you’ll recall, they were slow to start in both halves, but ultimately worked their way into higher field position and almost won on a late goal. In Boston’s last game against Seattle, they were much faster at getting into the rhythm of the game, something that they’ve obviously been working on after a series of slow starts.
Sitting back with five and then trying to explode out on a fast counter may work here between Midge Purce’s speed and Natasha Dowie probably being a good bet at taking Janine van Wyk one-v-one, despite Boston not really being a counterattacking team. Rosie White and Adriana Leon can certainly move the ball very quickly, using Leon’s width to open up defensive gaps for Dowie. Relying on the counter may also help them pull Morgan Brian out of the defensive third, giving them way less to worry about as they press towards goal.
Boston really needs these points. Without them, it’s going to be that much harder to get and stay solidly mid-table. Yes, they’ll have Rose Lavelle back in the last third of the season, but counting on late points is never a good time. Taking points against Houston, a team with a similar record, matters just as much as being able to stand up to the North Carolinas and Chicagos.
Boston vs Houston kicks off at 8:30 PM ET on Saturday, July 22. It will stream live on go90 and NWSLSoccer.com.