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Match preview: Boston Breakers vs Washington Spirit

Who can stay off the bottom of the table?

The Boston Breakers will play the Washington Spirit away tomorrow. These are two teams who have, frustratingly, missed some crucial pieces at times this season, but who are both capable of turning in scintillating performances. The problem is consistency.

The Breakers are, perhaps, the more consistent of the two at the moment, although that’s only to say they consistently draw when they could have won. The Spirit had a riotous 4-1 win over a tired, Sam-Kerr-less Sky Blue, then sank 3-0 to the Orlando Pride.

So where does that leave these two teams ahead of Saturday’s clash?

First, Boston’s defense is riddled with injuries. Brooke Elby and Christen Westphal are both still out and now Allysha Chapman is listed as doubtful with a groin strain. That leaves Megan Oyster, Julie King, and Amanda Frisbie trying to pick up the slack if Chapman is unable to play or can’t go a full 90. Who could Matt Beard shift back to help fill the gap? He did play Midge Purce at right back in her debut, an interesting but ultimately failed experiment. Perhaps he’ll shift Angela Salem into the back line since she drops with the center backs anyway and use Julie King and Amanda Frisbie as his fullbacks. Perhaps he’ll take a risk with three and hope he can pull a better performance out of his wide midfielders. If Chapman does play, Washington might consider shifting Mal Pugh to her side to really attack Boston’s left.

Washington has their own injuries. Line Sigvardsen Jensen came back from the Euros with an ACL tear. Estefania Banini was doubtful against Orlando with a hamstring injury, though she subbed in in the 73’. But Mal Pugh seems healthy, although Orlando was able to really limit her effectiveness.

Washington also had a hard time defensively. Center back Whitney Church has proven to be a vulnerability and former Boston Breaker Kassey Kallman isn’t always able to cover in conjunction with DM Tori Huster. Huster will be a problem, though. If there is a spine to Washington, Huster is the key component. Keeping her off the ball and trying to pull her out of position will open up a lot of maneuvering room for Boston’s midfield.

Another question for Boston: will Katie Stengel continue to start? She certainly looks like a player who is still meshing with a new team. But she also looks like she has the potential to bang in a few a goals once the meshing really takes. What would be interesting is if Morgan Andrews is once again released to play higher up the field; in Boston’s last game, a 2-2 tie with FC Kansas City, the team by far looked its best when Andrews was higher on the field. But if Salem has to pull back much deeper to help out with the defense, that could pull Andrews back as well.

Boston needs to take more shots as well. Offensive buildup is not ending in a shot on goal nearly enough for Boston. Trying to clean up that final ball has proven difficult without Rose Lavelle. Maybe that should mean more time for Amanda DaCosta, although once again Morgan Andrews getting the ball higher up the field does seem to be a big piece of the puzzle.

Boston and Washington are both tied on points, sitting at #8 and #9 on the table respectively. Washington has scored 21 goals to Boston’s 12, but has also allowed 28 to Boston’s 18. But Boston’s defense has been weakened by injury, making it paramount for Boston to keep on the offensive pressure and keep winning the ball higher on the field.

Boston Breakers vs Washington Spirit kicks off at 3:30 PM ET on Saturday, August 12 at the Maryland SoccerPlex. It will air live on Lifetime.