Boston Breakers at Western New York Flash
6/27/14, 7:30 PM
Sahlen's Stadium, Rochester, NY
In their previous three matches, the Breakers have shown steady signs of improvement, earning four points across a two-week span. On Sunday, goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher saved her side from enduring a league-worst 10th defeat when she denied a Kelly O'Hara penalty kick in the waning moments. Now in the heart of a seven-game road trip, the Breakers will look for continued production from rookie Jazmine Reeves, who scored her team-leading fourth goal of the season on Sunday.
Last Five: L-L-W-L-D
After finishing atop the NWSL table in 2013, the Flash have struggled to replicate their inaugural form--but only on the road. Pedro Losa's crew spoiled a 1-0 lead on Sunday and ultimately fell to the league-leading Reign, marking only their second home loss of the season. Now three points out of playoff contention, Western New York will rely on proven attackers Samantha Kerr, Carli Lloyd and Vicky Losada to find their way back into the mix.
Last Five: L-W-L-W-L
What to Watch for:
Now 13 matches into the 2014 season, the Breakers appear lost in a process of discovery. Analysts once regarded Durkin's side as a club teeming with international talent, ready to break onto the NWSL stage; others thought an impressive draft class would help balance Durkin's veteran players. The Breakers we know, though, have struggled to meet those expectations. International players have left, young talent has been thrust into the Starting XI and veterans have only partially carried their weight. So, what can we expect the rest of the way? Look for Durkin to continue grooming his young talent, specifically Reeves, Nkem Ezurike and Mollie Pathman, in hopes of creating a multi-dimensional attack that features rookies and veterans alike.
If the Breakers have a late-season run in their future, the surge will come from a balanced approach that features the pacey Reeves, the physical Ezurike, the intelligent and scrappy Heather O'Reilly and the versatile Lianne Sanderson. Experience aside, Durkin's front line must establish a steady rhythm.
In New York, the Flash have benefitted from Boston's greatest weakness: an attack that virtually always appears in sync. Through 14 matches, Kerr, Lloyd and Co. have combined for 23 goals, good enough for third on the NWSL table. The team will once again miss U.S. legend Abby Wambach with a left knee sprain, though her attacking 'mates have more than made up for her loss in productivity.
On Friday, look for Losa's club to consistently threaten a Boston back line that will play without right back Julie King, who landed on the injury report with a calf contusion. With uncertainty behind King, and with an overall lack of depth along the back line, the Breakers will likely struggle to contain Western New York's high-flying attack. Will the Flash have their way at home?
The Breakers will need to tighten up defensively--and turn in a cohesive performance up top--to earn their first road win.