The Boston Breakers have two games left this season. Tomorrow, they will take on their fellow bottom-of-the-table team, the Washington Spirit, as #10 and #9 go head to head. Boston no doubt wants to end the season on a positive note, which means winning after a 10-game winless streak and outright losing their last five. The Spirit will want to do the same.
Both teams have a young wunderkind expected to take the USWNT to the next level on the roster, the Spirit with Mal Pugh and the Breakers with Rose Lavelle. But Pugh is healthy, and Lavelle probably doesn’t much more than a half safely in her. It’s far too late to be trying to get Lavelle well-integrated into the midfield for Boston anyway, and so managing her minutes and being smart about getting her back to full health before the national team plays four friendlies at the end of the year probably takes priority.
As for the rest of the team, Boston’s last game against Portland showed just how well they can boss the field when the pieces fall into place. They choked off Portland’s midfield and mostly absorbed their attacks in order to recycle the ball out. They created chances on goal, but didn’t manage to finish them, which is where they shot themselves in the foot a bit.
Meanwhile, the Spirit defeated Sky Blue FC 2-1 in their last game in a come-from-behind performance. Players to watch (ones not named Mal Pugh anyway) are forward Cheyna Williams and midfielder Meggie Dougherty Howard. Williams will be a test for the back line, able to cut through space or break a line with the ball at her feet. The Spirit really like to look for Williams through the gaps in the defense, allowing her to run on and finish in the box. Lindsey Agnew, Caprice Dydasco, and Mal Pugh can also make a very hard punch down the right for Washington, which could inform just how much Allysha Chapman can pin back that side and work into the attacking third.
But if Boston can throttle off Portland’s midfield, they should be able to do the same to Washington, cutting off Pugh and/or Williams. Regardless of result, the real question for this game is: can Boston score? If they can’t score against the #9 team in the league, their perpetual friend down at the bottom of the table, then that is serious fodder for Matt Beard to consider as he ponders his 2018 roster.
The Boston Breakers take on the Washington Spirit at 7 PM ET on Saturday, September 23. The game will stream live on go90 and NWSLSoccer.com.