Pride vs. Breakers: Previews and Predictions

Tonight the Boston Breakers come to town to visit the Orlando Pride at Orlando City Stadium. The match pits two teams that are next to each other on the table going into the day, with Boston in seventh place and Orlando just below in eighth. The Pride enter the match looking for their second win on the season in what is likely to be the second match where Aubrey Bledsoe starts in goal with the injury to Ashlyn Harris. The Pride will also be without second year sensastion Dani Weatherholt in midfield, as the California native was named to the U-23 roster for the Nordic Open Tournament. The 22-player squad left on June 1 to prepare for a pair of matches against Norway on June 6 and England on June 9.

Players to Watch

Boston brings several potent players to Orlando for this match. Natasha Dowie is among the league leaders in goals on the season (3), and Adriana Leon has the second highest assist tally (3) in NWSL. Defensively, goalkeeper Abby Smith has 25 saves on the season, which is good for fourth. 

For the hosts, the Pride continue to struggle to put all the pieces together. Weatherholt's absence will leave a hole in defensive midfield that will be difficult to replace with the same quality. Weatherholt has proven this year to be a very tenacious and energetic player, who is able to use her speed and strength to disrupt opponents, tackle the ball away, and win possession for the team. It will be interesting to see how Coach Sermanni decides to shuffle the lineup for this match and how that impacts team chemistry. Perhaps Kristen Edmonds, who proved adept at many positions on the pitch last season, can move back and take that role, or we might see one of the newer players step up and take that position.

Prediction

It's hard to read how the Pride's offense will play week to week. They have proven exciting to watch and will create many chances every match. Marta is always exciting when she gets the ball at her feet, whether she is creating opportunities for teammates with a well-placed pass or if she is setting up to take a shot herself. And as a team Orlando is outscoring Boston on the season (8 goals to 7), but the hosts are also giving up more goals so far (11 to 8). I generally believe that the Pride are playing incrementally better football week to week, and I'm looking for them to have a breakout game any time now. For the sake of hope as much as anything else, I'd like to see that match come today, but I'm going to pick the ladies to have a modest win 2 - 1. 

What are your thoughts on the match--do you think the home side will win, or do you think that Boston will prove too tough to tame? Let me know in the comments below!