Tell me if you’ve heard this one before, the NC Courage will play the Boston Breakers this week. This time they will travel to Jordan Field in Cambridge, Massachusetts to face the women from Bean Town This seems to be a pretty unique feature of the NWSL, though MLS has the occasional back to back matchup, and it creates for some interesting soccer. In the rest of the world this kind of thing is pretty rare. Sure, Champions League or some cup competitions will have teams playing each other consecutively, but not at the rate NWSL has its teams play back to back in the regular season.
It creates a compelling lens through which to watch the games that soccer fans don’t usually get. For one thing, it shows how much of an advantage home field is. Watching the Courage last week it might be expected that the team will come out looking to dominate again. However, the previous time that the two sides met away from WakeMed Soccer Park, Boston was difficult to breakdown. That contrasts to how the Breakers fell apart in the first half in Cary last weekend. The consecutive matchups also gives Boston a chance to get revenge immediately after the loss.
Last week: plumbing the depths
The NC Courage came away with a 3-1 victory in a commanding first half performance which saw them score three goals and then cruise to an easy win. Most promising for the team was that coach Paul Riley played a lineup that tested the team’s depth which passed with flying colors. With both Jess McDonald and Lynn Williams starting the game on the bench, Riley threw the keys of the attack to youngsters Ashley Hatch and Kristen Hamilton. He was rewarded for his confidence in them with three goals before the 40th minute with Hamilton bringing home a brace and Hatch finding the net after also scoring against FC Kansas City.
Add to it that Riley seems to have found a backline that works in a 4-4-2. With Yuri Kawamura out for the season, NC seems less likely to play a 3-5-2 until a suitable third center back is brought in or emerges in training. The team did allow a goal but the backline of Jaelene Hinkle, Abby Erceg, Abby Dahlkember, and Taylor Smith only let Boston put two shots on frame.
With Jess McDonald out and Lynn Williams doubtful the frontline will have to be on their game once again and the defense will need to be as cohesive as last weekend if the Courage are going to get a result against the Breakers again.
Boston is coming into the match sitting second from last place in the table and have re-discovered their struggles from last year finding the back of the net. The club has scored just eight goals in nine games with the team scoring just one goal in their last three games. The team has fared better at home with six goals in four games at Jordan Field.
Scoring and keeping the Courage off of the board will be a challenge this week Midfielder Rose Lavelle and keeper Abby Smith are both injured this week. Last game against the Courage, Boston struggled to breakup play and develop chances without Lavelle setting the tempo in midfield. With Smith out, the Breakers will have to rely on their defensive chemistry and cohesion to hold back the Courage attack.
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