The Boston Breakers enter this match against the Chicago Red Stars at #9 on the table, with 12 points out of 12 games. The Red Stars are #2, with 23 points out of 12 games. In their last meeting in May, the Red Stars forced a 1-1 tie in nearly the last minute of regulation, denying the Breakers a crucial road win. Now that they’re at home, can they overcome a Chicago team that has picked up steam and rhythm since May?
Let’s look at Boston’s last couple of games. The Breakers went from road loss, to road tie, to home win in a period that saw them play three games in a week. As goalkeeper Sammy Jo Prudhomme pointed out last weekend, it’s encouraging to see that in the game where they should have been the most tired, they put on their best performance. Perhaps it was finally being at home. Perhaps it was the frustration at missing out on a road win against the Dash after the ref called back their goal. Perhaps they finally really adjusted to the loss of Rose Lavelle and the shifting sands of the back line. Could be some combination of factors. But if Boston can take that performance and continue to improve on it, then they stand a good chance against the Red Stars.
Chicago’s recent results are a mixed bag too; they needed a penalty kick to beat Orlando 1-0, lost 2-1 to Seattle, and put together a very convincing comeback in a 2-1 victory over Sky Blue FC. They have a very nice assortment of midfielders with Dani Colaprico, Vanessa DiBernardo, and Julie Ertz. Their ability to hit Christen Press and use her to let the midfielders advance, in return releasing her to move into the box, is part of their nice attacking rhythm. Denying Press service is crucial, although in that case she can also just sit deeper in the field and pick out a teammate like Sofia Huerta.
Casey Short is also a problem for Boston; she’s probably one of if not the best left back in the league at the moment and the team knows how shift in order to cover when she’s attacking high. Still, they may be able to catch Chicago on a quick transition, perhaps getting Rosie White and Adriana into space.
Boston will also probably have the services of new forward Katie Stengel for this game. Could she be the key to unlocking Natasha Dowie in front of goal? Head coach Matt Beard has said previously that Dowie would probably score at a rate of once every other game, but she hasn’t bagged a goal in six games, last scoring in Boston’s 2-2 tie with Portland in May. Of course, not many other players have been scoring either. In those six games, Adriana Leon picked up one goal (assist courtesy Dowie) and of course Midge Purce got her first pro goal last weekend against the Washington Spirit. It’s not a lack of effort; it’s that Boston’s midfield has been sorting out some issues and that either finds Dowie cut off, or having to drop deeper and deeper to help regain possession.
Boston will have to be very sharp indeed to deal with Chicago’s midfield. Whether that means asking Angela Salem to disrupt them to high heaven and then looking to spring a quick ball into the attacking third or settling down and playing their own game, they’ll have to be very fast and very composed on the ball. Boston needs goals, and they especially need them at home to mentally keep Jordan Field as a place to retreat for solace when the road is grinding them into the dirt.
Boston Breakers vs Chicago Red Stars kicks off at 7 PM ET on Friday, July 7. It will livestream on go90 and NWSLSoccer.com.