The NC Courage are still at the top of the NWSL table, albeit with one more game played than the Chicago Red Stars who sit two points behind them, as the team prepares to take on the Boston Breakers for the second time in 2017. This time the Breakers will come to North Carolina and the Courage will look to win back to back games.
For their part, the Breakers have taken a step back with just two points in their past five games. That stretch followed starting the season winning two of three games and looking like a much improved team. Head coach Mark Beard has had two weeks to get his team ready for the match and the international break would have come as a welcome opportunity to hit the reset button ahead of a tough matchup. This is still a team that can be very difficult to breakdown and can score goals on stout defensive sides. But, they’ll have to do that without Rose Lavelle who has a thigh injury.
Her absence could make things very difficult for Boston, teams who have had success against the Courage have done it by controlling the midfield and not letting Jess McDonald, Lynn Williams, and Debinha find space behind the defense. Without Lavelle, clogging the passing lanes in the middle of the pitch becomes that much harder. That said, Adriana Leon is second in the NWSL in assists and the Breakers midfielder is more than capable of creating chances for her teammates and herself alike.
That’s not to say that this game will be easy for the Courage. North Carolina maybe without Lynn Williams due to a sprained ankle. This could press coach Paul Riley into starting Ashley Hatch in her place. The rookie out of BYU scored a goal to put the Courage ahead 2-0 in their last match against FCKC two weeks ago. Defensively the good news for the Courage is that without Yuri Kawamura the team managed a clean sheet.
I expect with Yuri Kawamura out to see a 4-4-2 again this weekend. There isn’t a clear alternative at center back to replace her at this point and keeping stability and cohesion with the same backline will be key to shutting down the Boston attack this weekend.
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