Connect with us

Boston Breakers

NWSL Mid-Week 11 preview: Weathering the storm

One of the tougher stretches of the NWSL season has arrived with eight of the 10 clubs in Wednesday-night action as the meat on the sandwich of weekend tilts. Some like the Reign won’t have to leave the Pacific Northwest while the Red Stars are on the middle leg of an absurd Chicago  Seattle ⇾ Orlando run over seven days.

Squad rotation will be a focus according to many coaches. The Equalizer is following suit, as I fill in for Chelsey this week. Not to worry though: Chelsey will be back for the weekend preview and will be fit and strong for the playoffs.

GAME OF THE MID WEEK

Chicago Red Stars (6-2-2) at Seattle Reign FC (3-2-5)

Jess Fishlock may once again be called upon to fill in for Lauren Barnes at center back. (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

Jess Fishlock may once again be called upon to fill in for Lauren Barnes at center back. (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

Wednesday, 10:30 p.m. EDT, Memorial Stadium
All-time series: Red Stars lead, 5-3-4
In Seattle: Reign, 3-1-2
Last meeting: June 4, 2017; 1-0 Red Stars

The Red Stars must have done something to annoy the schedule maker to get this trip thrown in between a home game and a visit to steamy Orlando. And they’ll have to navigate it without Danielle Colaprico, who sprained her ankle against Sky Blue and will miss a match for the first time as a professional. Her absence could throw even more offensive responsibility on left back Casey Short, but the issues in Chicago have been in the final third, where missed opportunities have been one of the top talking points in more of their matches than not. If they can figure that out, they’re the best team in the league.

When these teams last met, the Reign were foiled by Red Stars’ defensive tactics that prevented them from getting the ball out of their own half for much of the latter stages of the match. If they’re going to do better, it will have to be without Lauren Barnes, out of the lineup for the first time since June 28, 2014, due to the red card she was shown on the weekend. Rachel Corsie is also out again through injury, so it will be rookie Kristen McNabb and somebody unless Laura Harvey elects to go back to a 3-back. That somebody was Jess Fishlock after the red card last Saturday, and she held up well. With Naho Kawasumi and Megan Rapinoe in fine form and options at forward and Bev Yanez likely in the lineup, Fishlock could be the best option in back again.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Arin Gilliland

After a rough start to the season during which she was nursing some nagging injuries, Gilliland was given some additional time off around the recent FIFA break and returned looking fresh last weekend. She will likely have a lot of Megan Rapinoe in her face much of the evening, and it will make for a much better Red Stars if Gilliland is able to spend more time attacking and less time defending.

Kristen McNabb

“She’s a joke. She’s ridiculously good,” Harvey said of McNabb after Saturday’s draw with FC Kansas City. The 37th overall pick will have to prove it in this one with the likes of Christen Press and Sofia Huerta to deal with and no veteran presence with her in the middle.

Keep an eye on:
• Who Rory Dames puts in for Danielle Colaprico
• Haley Kopmeyer’s distribution, the weakest part of her game

***

Orlando Pride (3-4-3) at Sky Blue FC (5-5-1)

Marta and the Pride return to Yurcak Field, where Christie Pearce and Sky Blue managed to pull off a 2-1 victory in May. (photo copyright Katie Cahalin for The Equalizer)

Marta and the Pride return to Yurcak Field, where Christie Pearce and Sky Blue managed to pull off a 2-1 victory in May. (photo copyright Katie Cahalin for The Equalizer)

Wednesday, 7:00 p.m. EDT, Yurcak Field
All-time series: Sky Blue lead, 2-0-1
In New Jersey: Sky Blue, 1-0-1
Last meeting: May 27, 2017; 2-1 Sky Blue

The Pride were left licking their wounds following a terrible performance against the Dash last weekend. When they last visited Yurcak Field, Sky Blue did a solid job of denying Marta the ball in dangerous areas, so the game plan for this one figures to revolve around trying to get her into space. There is little doubt she can create goals when that happens, but the Pride have yet to show they can score much, or win much, by grinding it out.

{THE LOWDOWN: The ups and downs of life in the middle of the table}

Sky Blue is always going to make an opponent grind. That said, Kelley O’Hara is questionable, so look for Erika Skroski to return to the starting lineup as the outside back opposite Kayla Mills. Will that be enough to contain Marta and Camila? The better bet is challenging them, and the ball, in midfield. Meanwhile in the center, Christie Pearce is still remarkable at 42, but midweek turnarounds are difficult for any player of any age.

Keep an eye on:
• Kristen Edmonds to see if her 2016 form is lurking anywhere
• Sarah Killion, who will be key to Sky Blue’s defensive efforts

***

Boston Breakers (2-6-2) at Houston Dash (3-7-0)

The Houston Dash will have to stop Natasha Dowie, 9, Boston's biggest scoring threat, if they want to win. (photo copyright Linehan Photography for The Equalizer)

The Houston Dash will have to stop Natasha Dowie, 9, Boston’s biggest scoring threat, if they want to win. (photo copyright Linehan Photography for The Equalizer)

Wednesday, 9:00 p.m. EDT, BBVA Compass Stadium
All-time series: Dash lead, 5-2-0
In Houston: Dash, 3-0-0
Last meeting: September 11, 2016; 4-1 Dash

The Breakers did well to hang with the Courage last week while playing severely shorthanded, but Boston fans must be exhausted from talking about such things instead of wins and improvements. Natasha Dowie is a legitimate finisher, but that’s tough to do when the ball is turned over in midfield too often. Rose Lavelle and Abby Smith will be out again with injuries, but Rosie White returns after somehow accumulating five bookings in nine matches. Finding Adriana Leon on the flank will likely be a positive scenario for the Breakers.

The Dash finally stopped the negative momentum that covered the Randy Waldrum firing by beating the Pride on the weekend. They’ll be favored to win again here, but for the club to make any sort of serious move up the table, they’re going to have to be a lot better. Kealia Ohai is out for the season, which is sometimes easier to adapt to than a lingering injury. In her absence, Janine Beckie would be well served never to start in midfield again. If the midfield group led by Morgan Brian can create turnovers in the Breakers’ midfield, Lloyd, Beckie and Rachel Daly could have a field day.

Keep an eye on:
• Morgan Andrews, who played well in place of Lavelle last week
• Rachel Daly’s energy to give the Breakers backs some trouble

***

FC Kansas City (3-3-4) at Portland Thorns FC (4-3-3)

Nadia Nadim's presence on the field for the Thorns could be the difference maker against FC Kansas City (photo copyright Lewis Gettier)

Nadia Nadim’s presence on the field for the Thorns could be the difference maker against FC Kansas City (photo copyright Lewis Gettier)

Wednesday, 10:00 p.m. EDT, Providence Park
All-time series: Kansas City lead, 5-3-4 (plus 1-1-0 playoffs)
In Portland: Thorns lead, 3-2-1
Last meeting: May 13, 2017; 0-0 draw

The Blues made the short trip south from Seattle on Sunday, so they may actually be the more rested side since the hosts were all the way in Washington D.C. for the weekend. After squandering points when up a player and a goal, they should be chomping at the bit to get back at it. The attack is slowly coming around with weekend goal scorer Brittany Ratcliffe becoming more and more of a factor and Alexa Newfield behind her doing the same. The key now is to get Sydney Leroux going.

The Thorns started with a lack of energy in Washington, and unlike some other instances this season, were unable to pull themselves out of it. They still struggle in wide areas on both sides of the ball and the lack of offensive production from Christine Sinclair has been one of the more under-discussed stories of 2017. If Nadia Nadim starts, that will be huge. The entire tenor changed on Saturday when she took off the warm-ups and got in the game.

Keep an eye on:
• Lo’eau LaBonta, quietly one of the most improved players in NWSL this season
• The Thorns right side which has been leaky of late behind Celeste Boureille

Comments

Your account

MORE EXTRA


More in Boston Breakers