Aug. 26, 2014 - Rivalries are renewed this Sunday as the Boston Breakers get ready to take on Sky Blue FC in front of home support at Harvard Stadium (kickoff at 7 p.m. ET).
April 26, 2014 - Rivalries are renewed this Sunday as the Boston Breakers get ready to take on Sky Blue FC in front of home support at Harvard Stadium (kickoff at 7 p.m. ET). This is the first of three encounters this year between the two sides after four games in 2013, and the Breakers are out for their first points of the new National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) season.
"They are well-organized defensively, they play with a very low line of pressure, they counter attack, and they're effective," Boston Breakers Head Coach Tom Durkin said of Sky Blue FC. "We've tried to prepare the team to play against the bunker to get our ball speed up a bit. We're trying to get Heather O'Reilly and Lisa De Vanna and Lianne (Sanderson) closer to each other, so we made an adjustment in the midfield triangle."
Boston heads into this game as the only remaining team in the league yet to get off the mark, following defeats to Seattle Reign FC and Houston Dash. Last Sunday’s home clash with Houston went the way of the visitors from Texas as the Dash struck twice late through a pair of goals by Teresa Noyola to secure a 3-2 win and the first in the team’s short history.
The Breakers welcome adversaries from the Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) days in Sky Blue FC. Jim Gabarra’s team are also searching for their first win. An opening weekend 1-1 draw at FC Kansas City was followed by the same score last Saturday at home to defending champions Portland Thorns FC. In that game with the Thorns, Sky Blue FC captain and U.S. Women’s National Team defender Christie Rampone scored her first professional goal to put Sky Blue FC ahead.
Portland’s Allie Long rescued a draw on 75 minutes with a penalty after handball was given against Kelley O’Hara. Another handball, this time from the Thorns’ Nikki Marshall, gave O’Hara the chance to redeem herself in stoppage time and grab all three points from the penalty spot, but she fired wide. Nevertheless, the versatile and accomplished O’Hara is undoubtedly one to watch this Sunday and she is a familiar face to the Breakers. The 45-cap U.S. Women's National Team midfielder scored four goals while with the club back in 2011, a year after winning the WPS crown with FC Gold Pride.
The Breakers’ attack is set to face Sky Blue keeper and another U.S. Women's National Team member, Jill Loyden. In the season opener with FC Kansas City, Loyden made seven saves, just as Boston’s Alyssa Naeher did at Seattle. Jim Gabarra has spoken of how they will rely on ‘balanced’ scoring across the team this term, but in Mexican forward Mónica Ocampo they have a player who led the team with eight goals in 2013.
Attacking from further back will be Canada midfielder Sophie Schmidt, who scored seven times in the league last year. It was her header against Portland which hit the post for Christie Rampone to notch from the rebound. Another creative force in the midfield is Katy Freels, who set up that goal with a corner and she came up with an impressive six assists last season. Nineteen-year-old Australian international Caitlin Foord will also be worth keeping an eye on down the right as she made the 2013 NWSL 2nd XI after a fine debut year with Sky Blue FC in 2013.
Cat Whitehill evades Sophie Schmidt in a match last season against Sky Blue (Photo By Mike Gridley)
Despite the disappointment of defeat against Houston, the Breakers have plenty of cause for positivity ahead of this game. In Lisa De Vanna, they possess a forward taking on her old team. The speedy Australian striker picked out Heather O’Reilly superbly for her first-minute goal last week. De Vanna scored six goals for Sky Blue FC in 2013 in New Jersey, including a double in a 5-1 win over the Breakers on June 1 at Yurcak Field.
"Our pressing has been quite good at times, but we haven't been capitalizing on it," Durkin said. "Albeit that we had a quick goal (against Houston), we've been kind of slow to start possession-wise. Usually it takes three or four games to really perfect the style. We have to eliminate unforced errors, and then I think we'll be fine. "
O’Reilly not only scored last week but also picked out Joanna Lohman with a sumptuous left-footed cross to head home. O’Reilly’s goal was her 10th professional strike, and she was so close to finding Canadian international Kaylyn Kyle at the back post later in the first half.
Following Sunday’s game, the Breakers are next in action Saturday, May 3 for another matchup with Sky Blue FC. The game will take place at 7 p.m. at Yurcak Field, Piscataway, NJ.
- By Chris Brookes