Match Preview: Portland Thorns FC @ Boston Breakers

USA TODAY Sports

A Thorns win clinches playoff spot

MATCH INFORMATION

Date: Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Kickoff: 4 p.m. (Pacific)

Location: Dilboy Stadium (Somerville, Mass.)

Forecast: 82 degrees, partly cloudy

Referee: Elvis Mahmutovic

Assistant Referees: Albert Calise, Russ Wolf

Fourth Official: Mounir Idmalak

Webstream available via www.bostonbreakerssoccer.com for a fee of $4.99.

The second-place Thorns (10-5-4, 34 points) ride into Boston (6-7-6, 24 pts) after Sunday's disheartening 2-3 loss to FC Kansas City, in what was Portland's final regular-season game of the year, and its last at JELD-WEN Field. In that match, Portland's offense generated plenty of chances (17 shots, eight on goal) and at times dictated the run of play. But the defense had no answer for the buzzsaw that is Lauren Holiday.

Boston, meantime, has had its own troubles. Last week, the team abruptly fired head coach Lisa Cole (I say "abruptly" not because it was a huge surprise, but because the timing of it was odd, considering the Breakers are still on the playoff bubble). Veteran defender Cat Whitehill has been given the player/interim coach duties. While Whitehill has been running training, former USWNT player Kristine Lilly is running things from the sidelines during matches, in a sort of unofficial capacity. In their only game under this new arrangement, the Breakers drew at 2-2 with the Western New York Flash. After dominating with a pair of goals in the first half (via Lianne Sanderson and Kyah Simon), Boston's form faltered in the last 30 or so minutes of the game, allowing WNY to come back.

Here's the truly crucial thing: With a win or a draw, the Thorns qualify for the playoffs.

What to Worry About

Having scored 10 times this season, Boston's Sydney Leroux torched the Thorns for two goals when her team topped the Thorns 2-0 earlier this season at JELD-WEN Field. Later, when the Thorns came back to win 2-1 in Boston, Leroux looked much less dangerous. If Portland's defense can keep track of her, they should be able to shut her down. If not, we're toast.

A second factor: fatigue. Last Sunday's loss, in 90-degree heat, was the Thorns third game in eight days. The team left on an early morning flight for Boston the very next day. This team already looked gassed last weekend, and a cross-country away game (their fourth game in 11 days) isn't going to help those rubbery legs.

What Not to Worry About

At times, Boston can look very dangerous. Other times, they appear toothless, especially if Leroux is not engaged. The Breakers sometimes struggle to stretch the field, and this can definitely work to the Thorns' advantage, as Portland's defense is awfully vulnerable when it gets pulled. The Breakers' backline has been inconsistent as well, and given Portland's recent offensive intensity, the Thorns should be able to score some goals against this squad.

Stat You Can Interpret However You Want

The Thorns are 5-1-2 on the road.

Of Note

Boston's starting goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher will play, after missing some games with a broken nose.

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