June 11, 2011

Preview: Boston at Sky Blue

Boston Breakers at Sky Blue FC (4 pm eastern, Sunday)
Yurcak Field, Piscataway, New Jersey.

Sky Blue FC (2-3-2)
Coach: Jim Gabarra
Goalkeepers: J. Branam, K. Bardsley.
Defenders: A. Asante, K. Fletcher, B. Taylor, C. Dew, D. Johnson, M. Wenino, J. Clark.
Midfielders: C. Blank, A. Long, T. Sjögran, A. Kerr, A. Mautz.
Forwards: E. Aluko, Adriana, L. Kalmari, C. Nogueira.
Not active: T. Heath, H. O'Reilly, L. Johnson (injury), K. Arnold, E. Guthrie.

Boston Breakers (3-5-1)
Coach: Tony DiCicco
Goalkeepers: A. Naeher, A. Phillips.
Defenders: A. Scott, I. Dieke, K. Moore, E. Reed, A. Sameshima.
Midfielders: L. Osborne, K. Winters, M. Klingenberg, L. Bogus, L. Blayney.
Forwards: K. Smith, K. Schoepfer, T. Hemmings, C. Zimmeck.
Not active: R. Buehler, S. Cox, A. LePeilbet, L. Cheney, K. O'Hara, K. Davis (injury), J. Angeli (injury), N. Cross.

This will be the third meeting of the year between these two teams, with each winning at home. Both teams will be missing several players due to national team obligations, but Boston will be hit particularly hard, losing three of their starting four on the back line along with Lauren Cheney and Kelley O'Hara. Sky Blue will miss midfielders Tobin Heath and Heather O'Reilly.

This game could ultimately have a major impact on the playoffs, with Boston presently in third place with 10 points, while Sky Blue is in fifth place with 8 points. Sky Blue has two games in hand, however.

Several players on both teams will be playing their last WPS games for awhile. Boston's Alex Scott and Kelly Smith and Sky Blue's Eni Aluko, Anita Asante, and Karen Bardsley will soon be joining the English national team. Therese Sjögran will be joining the Swedish national team. Newly signed Aya Sameshima will play this match and then be off to join her Japanese teammates.

Meghan Klingenberg made an instant splash with the Breakers last weekend and she earned Player of the Week honors. She gives Boston solid wing play and should help support Kelly Smith in the middle. Katie Schoepfer got her first WPS goal last week.

The question is how vulnerable Boston's defense will be without three starters. They managed well last week against magicJack, but can they repeat that performance against Sky Blue? Alyssa Naeher, who has played every minute this year for Boston, has one shutout in nine matches.

Sky Blue will definitely miss O'Reilly and Heath, and it's possible that their possession will suffer as a result. But the good news is that they have scored a lot of goals lately, seven in the past three matches. Those seven goals came from six different players. Each of their four forwards, Laura Kalmari, Casey Nogueira, Adriana, and Aluko, have scored this season.

Defensively, Sky Blue is as healthy as they have been in some time. Jen Branam has been Sky Blue's number one in goal.

These two teams usually play close matches, with an occasional exception. It would not be a surprise for this match to end in a tie or another one-goal margin as the previous two meetings have been.