Portland Thorns (8-3-2, 26pts) v. Boston Breakers (4-5-4, 16pts)
Saturday, July 6, 2013 at 7:30pm PDT (10:30pm EDT)
JELD-WEN Field, Portland, Oregon
Watch the Match Here!
Radio – Freedom 970 (970AM) Live Audio
Twitter – @ThornsFC @BostonBreakers

The Portland Thorns look to return to their winning ways as they host the Boston Breakers on Saturday at JELD-WEN Field in Portland, Oregon. This is the first of three meetings this season between these sides and the lone trip to Portland for the Breakers this season.

What do the Thorns need to do?

Simply put, the Thorns need to find their offense. After starting out the season strong, the Thorns’ attack has looked lackluster at best since their thrilling 4-3 goal-fest victory against FC Kansas City on June 6, and they have not scored in their past two matches, going winless (0-1-1) against Sky Blue FC and FC Kansas City to close out June.

The loss of midfielder Becky Edwards to a torn ACL can easily be correlated to the lack of attack. Head coach Cindy Parlow Cone has been forced to move from her preferred 4-4-2 diamond to a more defensive 4-4-2 or 4-5-1, playing Allie Long and Courtney Wetzel in front of the defensive line. This has slowed the linking play from the midfield and allowed the opponent to break up the attack before it begins for forcing the Thorns to boot the ball down the field, hoping to link up with forwards Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair and the production of both have stalled as a result.

Facing a hot and cold Breakers side, this matchup against the Breakers could be just what they need to find their attack once again. The Breakers come in with a potent attack, led by NWSL leading-goalscorer Sydney Leroux, but they have also allowed 22 goals on the season, 16 goals since June 1.

The Thorns need to come out strong and take control of this match early, especially in the midfield, if they want to get back in the win column. With FC Kansas City and Western New York right behind them in the standings, and only 5 points currently separating the top four teams, the playoff race is starting to become clearer. With much of the talk coming out of training being on the Thorns looking introspectively, it seems likely that changes will be made to the Starting XI.

What do the Breakers need to do?

Boasting a solid attack and a porous defense makes Boston a hard team to gameplan for. While the Leroux-led attack can keep the Breakers in any match, the defensive issues have led them to shuffle their backline over the past month, bringing in goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and defenders Jazmyne Avant and Carmelina Moscato.

The Breakers have quite the challenge in front of them, facing an offense led by international stars Morgan and Sinclair, but their production has almost been equaled by Leroux, who has 8 goals on the season. She will be challenged though by a tough Thorns defense that has only allowed 11 goals on the season and will likely be shadowed by United States Women’s National Team teammate Rachel Buehler at her every move.

Success for the Breakers in this match will come from them finding a way to get through the Thorns defense, while also holding their own against the Thorns attack, which is a tall order, especially when the Thorns are clicking on offense. The best strategy for the Breakers may be to go for the early goals, but if they are unsuccessful, they Thorns are more than capable of punishing them early and often.

Projected Lineups:

Both sides will likely come out in similar attacking 4-3-3/4-5-1 formations, though new out of Thorns camp was that there could be some changes to the lineup, though nothing will be confirmed until the lineups are released before kickoff.

rsz_july-6-por-preview

Keys to the Match:

Thorns –
1. Strong midfield linking play
2. Contain Leroux
3. Dictate the rhythm and flow of the match

Breakers –
1. Control the midfield
2. Spread the attack
3. Contain Morgan and Sinclair

Score Prediction:

The last couple of matches for the Thorns have been less than impressive, but they return home, where they play a much more open style of play, while the Breakers have struggled away from home, only winning a lone match on the road. Facing a team with known defensive issues, this could be a very open match and the Thorns will look to push the Breakers backline early and often, while the Breakers will look to spring the ever-dangerous Leroux. This match feels like one where star-power will rule the day, and the Thorns have the clear advantage. I see the Thorns winning 2-1.