Boston Breakers (5-5-5, 20pts) v. Portland Thorns (8-4-3, 27pts)
Sunday, July 21, 2013 at 4:00pm EDT (1:00pm PDT)
Dilboy Stadium, Somerville, Massachusetts
OUT: Bianca D’Agostino (right knee, partially torn ACL), Alyssa Naeher (broken nose)
PROBABLE: Katie Schoepfer (groin strain), Cat Whitehill (left hamstring strain)
Portland Thorns FC
OUT: Becky Edwards (left ACL surgery)
QUESTIONABLE: Casey Ramirez (right ankle sprain)
The Portland Thorns look to show they’ve turned things around as they head to Dilboy Stadium in Somerville, Massachusetts to take on the Boston Breakers, with a scheduled kickoff of 4:00pm EDT (1:00pm PDT). The Thorns and Breakers met just a couple weeks ago, as Boston used two Sydney Leroux goals to defeat the Thorns 2-0 at JELD-WEN Field on July 6.
What do the Thorns need to do?
In the first meeting with the Breakers, the Thorns spent much of the first half looking out of sorts and disinterested in the match, and were punished for it, as Leroux was able to sneak behind the defense in both the 11th and 38th minutes, pulling LeBlanc off her line and slotting the ball in the bottom corner. In the second half, the Thorns gained control of the match and pushed Breakers goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, but didn’t get anything to show for it.
The inclusion of Tobin Heath in the midfield brought about resurgent play from the Thorns in their last match against Western New York. While the result was a 1-1 draw, the Thorns looked much like the team many expected them to be at the onset of the season. The story of the match though was the play of goalkeepers LeBlanc and Adriana Franch, who both put together Player of the Week performances between the posts, with LeBlanc’s 86th minute penalty kick save on Abby Wambach being one of many big plays.
The Thorns will need to continue their improved play as they head to Boston. With Allie Long growing into the defensive midfield role and the return of outside back Marian Dougherty should help the Thorns contain Leroux, Boston’s greatest weapon. On the other side of the ball, the Alex Morgan-Christine Sinclair combination that was greatly anticipated to begin the season has finally come to fruition, though it is clear they need time to work together as they have rarely played up top together this season.
Leroux was able to use her speed to spread the Thorns defense in their first match, leaving her in open space with LeBlanc, so key to the Thorns will be shutting down her attacks. With their full defensive complement back, the Thorns should be more comfortable in the back and able to break up the Breakers attack from the midfield and on the wings. On the transition from defense to offense, Heath provides a new element that was greatly lacking just a couple weeks ago, mainly a solid link on the transition and another attacking threat.
What do the Breakers need to do?
The Breakers came into Portland and easily took care of business, overrunning the Thorns defense from perfectly placed balls and shots just out of reach of LeBlanc in the first half, while weathering a flurry of attacks as the Thorns looked to catch a break, but the Breakers held strong as Naeher made several big saves in the second half.
In their next match, the Breakers played to a scoreless draw, as backup goalkeeper Ashley Phillips stepped in for Naeher and recorded the third shutout of her career as the Breakers defense shined from the start. The Breakers will need more of the same against the Thorns, and while they tend to play more compact on the road, are ever-dangerous with Morgan and Sinclair up top.
Strong play from Leroux will be necessary for the Breakers to find they result they need to keep up in the playoff chase. If she is able to find open space, as she did in their first meeting, the Thorns defense will have a very busy day, but if she is contained and the Thorns are able to find a goal or two, the tables could be turned in this match.
Both teams rarely make changes to their lineups, with Portland coming out in a 4-4-2 that morphs into a 4-3-3, while Boston plays in a 4-3-3. The only question mark coming into this match is the availability of Naeher, who sat out their past match against Sky Blue FC. If she is unable to go, Phillips will get the start in goal.
Keys to the Match:
- Find Leroux in the open field
- Solid defensive/goalkeeper play
- Shut down the midfield
- Build off of last week’s improved play
- Open up the attack on the road
- Morgan and Sinclair need to play off each other
Both the Breakers and Thorns are hard teams to figure out. The can be hot one match and cold the next, and which team shows up for both sides is a major determining factor. For the Thorns, key their success is for both Morgan and Sinclair to find the back of the net, which neither of them has done in the same match since mid-May. For the Breakers, success or failure seems to go through the play of Leroux, who has more goals than both Morgan and Sinclair combined. The task for stopping them obviously falls to the defense, and area where the Thorns have the advantage, but have struggled against players like Leroux, who has proven she can sneak past their backline. This match is likely a toss-up, so I see both team getting at least a goal and playing to a draw.