Preview: Boston Breakers vs. Houston Dash


The Houston Dash take the next step in a season of first’s when they visit the Boston Breakers this Sunday: their first road trip in search of their first goal and their first points. They will have to do it, however, without the services of star midfielder Brittany Bock, out for the season with a torn ACL, and rookie forward Kealia Ohai who will miss the match with a high ankle sprain.

As reported yesterday, Rafaelle Souza will travel from Ole Miss where she is currently finishing up her degree, to Boston to join the Dash to provide some added depth on the bench. With Souza, the Dash will be able to suit up only six of a maximum total possible seven substitutes.

A week ago the Dash played against one of the two new coaches in NWSL this season, apart from their own Randy Waldrum, in the form of Paul Riley. This week they play against the other new coach in NWSL, Tom Durkin.

A common theme amongst the new coaches in NWSL is a desire to play a high pressing, possession based attacking style of play. Durkin is no different in this regard, so for the second week coaches with similar philosophies meet.

The Teams

Boston Breakers (0-0-1), 0 points

This match marks the return of the Boston Breakers to Harvard Stadium, their home during the WPS years. Harvard stadium has a larger capacity and is more easily accessible than Dilboy Stadium where they played last year. It will be interesting to see what type of impact this has on attendance.

Boston is coming off of a 3-0 loss to Seattle Reign FC last week; however the scoreline obscures the fact that Boston’s defense held their own for 48 minutes. Boston might well have gone in 1-0 at the half but for the crossbar stopping Joanna Lohman’s 29th minute close range shot. Seattle could claim the same, however, as Megan Rapinoe had a shot from outside the box pushed off the post by Boston keeper Alyssa Naeher.

Aug 17, 2013; Rochester, NY, USA; Boston Breakers defender Catherine Whitehill (4) makes a kick during the second half of a game against the Western New York Flash at Sahlen Stadium. The Flash won the game 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

An unfortunate penalty call early in the 2nd half put Boston down 1-0. When the second came from Kim Little just 5 minutes later, it broke Boston’s backs. Seattle ran rampant from there on and might easily have won by a wider scoreline.

Against Seattle, Boston’s 4-3-3 more closely resembled a 4-5-1 as the Breakers defended in numbers. For their home opener, expect Boston to look to get forward more often and test Houston’s young back line which held up so well against Portland Thorns FC a week ago.

New forward Lisa De Vanna did not make the start against Seattle but did come on as a sub. She should make the starting lineup as the Breakers seek to get more shots in than the four they managed against Seattle.

Heather O’Reilly’s play making capabilities will be needed to break open the Dash back line and create opportunities for De Vanna.

Cat Whitehill and Boston’s backline will have to guard against quick counter-attacks from the Dash who have pacey forwards on the flanks, even without Ohai.

Houston Dash (0-0-1), 0 points

The good feelings of the inaugural match last week and a 8,000+ crowd were quickly replaced this week by the disappointment of losing Brittany Bock for the season with a torn ACL. The Dash have faced their fair share of adversity already this season, losing defenders Lauren Sesselmann and Aya Sameshima to long-term injuries, but Bock had become the face, and in some ways the heart, of the franchise.

Ohai remains in Houston this weekend with a high ankle sprain, which means the Dash go into this match with a depleted lineup and two empty spots on the bench. Help is arriving, however, in the form of Rafaelle Souza who will fly to Boston from Ole Miss where she is finishing her studies; she will fill one of the empty bench spots and provides Waldrum with a good late game option if the Dash are in need of a goal.

The mood remains upbeat in the Dash camp, however, and Waldrum sees this as an opportunity for somebody to step up and prove that they belong. Against Portland, Teresa Noyola replaced Bock and went to the attacking midfielder role while Jordan Jackson dropped back alongside Becky Edwards.

Waldrum could opt to go with this same midfield grouping or go slightly more defensive minded by starting Dominique Richardson alongside Edwards with Jackson in the attacking midfielder role. The starting lineup in the midfield will be telling as to whether Waldrum sees opportunities to exploit Boston by pushing higher up the pitch and attacking often or whether he is feeling a bit more defensive minded.

Aug 24, 2013; Overland Park, KS, USA; FC Kansas City midfielder Teresa Noyola (10) warms up before the match against the Portland Thorns at Shawnee Mission District Stadium. Portland won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Against Seattle, Boston’s back line looked susceptible to speed. The Dash will be missing their paciest player in Ohai, but both Stephanie Ochs and Tiffany McCarty offer options for getting behind the back line.

The most important thing from Waldrum’s standpoint is that the midfield be patient in moving the ball around, probing and finding gaps to exploit. A week ago he felt the Dash were too impatient in trying to get the ball forward. This may have been a function of the excitement and emotion around the home opener; being on the road may provide the opportunity for the Dash to calm down and be more patient.


Another clash of similar tactical style and a game that neither team can afford to lose and go to 0-0-2 early on in the season. Expect a lot of play in the midfield as the two teams test each other and seek to find pockets of space. In the end, this may be a match where individual playmakers make the difference. On that front, Boston has one in Heather O’Reilly whereas Houston has yet to identify their playmaker.

With a home crowd behind them and a player the quality of O’Reilly pulling the strings, I expect to see Boston come out the winner in this one by a 1-0 scoreline. Help is on the way for the Dash next week, however, as they add a proven international goal scorer to the roster.

Injury Report

Boston Breakers: Kristie Mewis (out)

Houston Dash: Lauren Sesselmann (out), Brittany Bock (out), Kealia Ohai (out), Bianca Henninger (probable)

Projected Starting Lineups

Boston Breaker: GK – Alyssa Naeher, Def – Jazmyne Avant, Cat Whitehill, Julie King, Courtney Jones, Mid – Kaylyn Kyle, Joanna Lohman, Lianne Sanderson, Fwd – Heather O’Reilly, Lisa De Vanna, Mollie Pathman

Houston Dash: GK – Erin McLeod, Def – Nikki Washington, Holly Hein, Osinachi Ohale, Ari Romero, Mid – Becky Edwards, Jordan Jackson, Teresa Noyola, Fwd – Stephanie Ochs, Ella Masar, Tiffany McCarty

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