Let’s start with the bad news: Sky Blue FC looks prepared to go on a tear via their Australian dervish, Sam Kerr. Last weekend, when the Seattle Reign looked like they were holding a comfortable three-goal lead, Kerr decided that what should happen instead was she would score four goals and literally drag Sky Blue to a 5-4 away win. Kerr is incandescent, a force of nature with speed, vision, and accuracy.
Okay, are you scared enough of Sam Kerr yet? Good, you should be.
Now, the good news. 1) Sam Kerr can be controlled. No service, no goals. Teams have done it. The Orlando Pride just walloped them 5-0. 2) Rose Lavelle is back - with the caveat that she’s listed as questionable for the game, still recovering from a hamstring injury. But Matt Beard said after Boston’s last game that, if all went well, Lavelle might see some minutes off the bench. That may be the case against Sky Blue.
The obvious note here is that the Boston Breakers are most assuredly not the Orlando Pride. They have no Marta, no Alex Morgan, no Camila, no Steph Catley. So some of the options available to Orlando - a quick ball over and counting on your highest forward to be able to control it and score - aren’t consistently reliable tactics for Boston. But Alex Morgan or not, Sky Blue’s back line is porous. They’ve just lost usual leader Christie Pearce and, like Boston, have had to shift around their back line as other players return from injury, giving them inconsistency from game to game. When Orlando wasn’t springing Alex Morgan one-time, Sky Blue was susceptible to both feeds through and crosses. On Orlando’s third goal against Sky Blue, you can see multiple defenders completely losing track of Alex Morgan. Still, that requires a forward with good timing, so we’ll see if anyone from Boston can manage to linger between defenders and then stay onside for the feed.
As for crosses, that gives you the feeling that much will depend on Adriana Leon and Allysha Chapman, who have both shown themselves to be some of Boston’s best options at getting the ball into crossing position. If Lavelle manages to make it onto the field, she may go wide, leaving the more familiar (at this point) midfield pairing of Angela Salem and Morgan Andrews intact instead of breaking them up with a player who hasn’t played a game in months. Salem and Andrews will need to work hard to deny service to Kerr, either keeping Kerr isolated or simply pinning everyone back into Sky Blue’s half.
Brooke Elby is also off the injury list, once again giving Boston a tiny bit of breathing room when it comes to defensive depth. But Christen Westphal is still out, and Chapman is listed as playing with a groin strain. Boston will be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention with a loss here, and even though they won’t be making the playoffs even by winning every game they have left, there’s something to be said for the psychological effect of elimination vs winning.
Boston Breakers vs Sky Blue FC kicks off at 7 PM ET at Yurcak Field on Saturday, August 26. It will stream live on go90 and NWSLSoccer.com.