Sunday will be a big match for the ladies--it's the last match before the Olympic break and probably the last match without all of the players who have traveled to Rio. This match also comes on the heels of the worst loss the team have suffered, so it will be important for their confidence (not to mention, important for their playoff hopes) to have a good result from the match this weekend.
Once again, the NWSL schedulers have been kind, in that at the time the team really need a boost of confidence and really need three points they go up against the team that sits on the bottom of the table. The Breakers still sit at 4 points, which is what they had the last time we played them in Orlando earlier this month. Their 1 - 11 - 1 record is last in the league, and they also have the fewest goals scored in the league (6) while surrendering the most goals in the league (29).
Players to Watch
Last week the Seattle Reign took advantage of the Pride's youth and inexperience, forcing a lot of the Pride's younger players and those who have not had many minutes this season to chase the ball around the pitch and thus be out of position to open up scoring chances. I will be interested to watch if the coaches have helped the players adjust to that tactic. I would expect the Boston coaches would be working with their team to exploit any potential weakness that any opponent presents just to help their team enjoy some success and gain some confidence.
Looking back at the match on July 10, the team we face in Boston will look different from the one that visited Camping World Stadium. Mollie Pathman, the goal scorer for Boston, has since retired from professional soccer, so she is no longer with the team. And Stephanie McCaffrey, who played all 90 minutes for Boston in Orlando, has since been traded to the Chicago Red Stars. It was a move similar to the departure of Leanne Sanderson from the Pride earlier in the season, where Boston did not get players back but instead received an International spot and draft picks for next season.
For Orlando, of course we have a lot of exciting players to watch. Kristen Edmonds and Jasmyne Spencer are our leading scorers, and I expect both of them to be active on the ball, pushing forward and threatening to find the back of the net all night. Additionally, I'm hoping we'll see more shots and chances taken by rookies like Christina Burkenroad. And I'll especially be watching two players to see how they bounce back after a particularly difficult game.
A late challenge in the first half last week by Dani Weatherholt resulted in the first PK opportunity that Orlando have given up this season. Weatherholt is normally very heads up and eyes sharp for tactics of the opponents, but the cagy Reign were able to draw her out of position on the play and lure her into the error. It's a classic case of what I like to call "old age and treachery" vs. "youth and exuberance" every time a veteran player in any sport takes advantage of a rookie to gain an advantage. And late in the second half last week Toni Pressley suffered every defender's worst nightmare. Her attempt to deflect a crossing shot resulted in an unfortunate own goal. I hope to see both of these players bounce back and have good outings this match.
I'm also hoping to see our defense as a whole provide a little better support for goalkeeper Kaitlyn Savage. Last week against the Reign she had to face 23 shots, 12 of which were on goal. She made 8 saves, which is a good tally for any keeper. At the same time, the defense is the part of the team hit hardest by the Rio Olympics, as most of our starting defensive back line are away with their National teams. Kaylyn Kyle has been doing her best to play in the defensive position and encourage the other players that have moved into those positions with her, and I'm hoping that facing a team that hasn't had much success scoring this season will give them a chance to have a really solid outing. A clean sheet would be a great reward for the work that they and Savage have had to do in place of the missing Olympians.
As a team we know we're going to get great effort for the full 90 minutes, as they have lately developed a knack for scoring goals late in the match. In the last few matches they have scored goals, including game winners and equalizers well after the 85th minute and even in stoppage time.
Last time these teams played, the result was a 2 - 1 win for the Pride. I am going to go out on a limb and say that the result is even better this time. I will predict the Pride will win 2 - 0. We'll see if I also bounce back from a poor week in the prediction category last time out!
What about you--what do you expect to see in the match this weekend? Do you think the Pride will be able to capitalize on the weakness of Boston to get a win, or do you think they'll continue to struggle like they did last week? Is there a player that you believe is poised for a breakout match? Let me know in the comments below!