It’s been an exciting break in NWSL action with both the 2017 Women’s Euro and the Tournament of Nations taking place. There have been days where up to five international matches took place from morning until night; can NWSL possibly hope to match that level of excitement? Well, yes; if you’ve ever watched a Sky Blue FC comeback you’d know it doesn’t matter if it’s club, it can still make your heart race. But the Boston Breakers may be hoping for a much more sedate return to the footballing calendar as they take on FC Kansas City on Friday night.
FCKC are currently 9th in the standings, one spot below Boston. They’ve had four losses and a draw in their last five games, compared to Boston’s one win, three draws, and one loss. Boston definitely has a little more momentum coming into this game, but both teams will be very hungry for goals and points. It’s perhaps worse for two-time champions FCKC, who are used to winning and winning well. Boston fans are used to the bottom of the table, but KC has been struggling this season ever since starting off in the worst possible way with Amy Rodriguez’s ACL injury.
For this specific game, KC won’t have back line linchpin Becky Sauerbrunn due to national team duty; Sydney Leroux won’t be available either. For Boston, they won’t have Abby Smith or Midge Purce as well as Brooke Elby and Christen Westhphal both being out with injury. Emilie Haavi and Amanda DaCosta should both be back, their teams having been knocked out of the Euros early (sorry, guys). So both teams are going to be dealing with some defensive issues, although Sauerbrunn is arguably the bigger loss here due to both her central position and her individual value as a player. She often starts the ball up the spine for KC through Desiree Scott and can go on a late drive up the middle herself.
The loss of Westphal and Elby at the same time probably means a start for Amanda Frisbie, unless Beard wants to use a three-back or rearrange players from other positions. We’ll also see if he once again starts Katie Stengel instead of usual #9 Natasha Dowie, as he did against Houston. The scoring problem is a frustrating one but perhaps Stengel as target forward can exploit the gap Sauerbrunn leaves behind in the KC back line, with apologies to whoever Vlatko Andonovski uses to take her place.
We’ll also see if Andonovski plays Christina Gibbons higher on the field instead of at left back. When KC switched up Gibbons to an attacking CM against Sky Blue, they looked much better moving forward. Of course, they then plummeted in form in the next game with Gibbons in that position by losing 4-1 to Orlando, but it’s a worthwhile experiment from them that Boston could try to disrupt through pressure in the midfield, denying chances for likely attackers Shea Groom and Brittany Ratcliffe. Ratcliffe and Groom are both players who can take off from midfield; Ratcliffe demonstrated some of this when she used to be a Boston Breaker and would come on as an impact sub who could drive deep into the 18 on the flank. Shea Groom can also go in Leroux’s usual spot; she has Leroux’s hard nose but perhaps a better sense of the goal and will be a hard battle for whoever is tasked with keeping an eye on her.
The last time these two teams played, Boston was the loser in a 2-0 April defeat. Since then both teams have waxed and waned, but for this game, Boston probably has the edge on gaps left by absent players. Bolstered by the return of two midfielders, they should definitely be looking to retain possession and be able to switch the point of attack through Haavi and Adriana Leon.
Boston vs Kansas City kicks off at 7 PM ET on Friday, August 4 at Jordan Field. It will stream live on go90 and NWSLSoccer.com.