Seattle Reign FC (1-0-1) heads to Boston (1-1-0) for its first road match of the 2017 season. The Week 3 NWSL contest will kickoff at 4 p.m. PT on Saturday, and fans can watch live via go90 (or NWSLSoccer.com if outside the U.S.).
While Reign FC has gotten the best of Boston for four straight seasons — going 9-0-1 against the Breakers — this is a new and improved Boston side that shouldn’t be written off too quickly. Here are three things to watch in Saturday’s battle of East versus West.
The Battle in the Midfield
Sky Blue’s midfield dominated Reign FC in the opening match, but struggled against Boston in Week 2. While it could have just been an off game for Sky Blue, Angela Salem was particularly effective for the Breakers in breaking up plays and sparking the attack. She’ll have more of a challenge this week against a strong Reign FC midfield, which includes the never-ending runs and energy from Jess Fishlock.
When Reign FC slotted Rumi Utsugi into the midfield, things immediately felt more calm and controlled. Utsugi and her midfield partners will have to be even sharper against Boston. Whether Rose Lavelle lines up on the outside or in the middle of the field, she has the technical and playmaking skills that can catch any defense off guard.
Don’t sleep on Rosie White, either. The New Zealand international hasn’t scored yet for the Breakers, but she could cause some trouble in the midfield alongside Lavelle. She doesn’t play flashy, but her simple passing and calmness on the ball can open up play for Boston.
One big reason for Seattle’s success against Houston was how effectively the team used the space out wide. Megan Rapinoe in particular continued to slide behind Houston’s defense and was a dangerous option for all 90 minutes.
While Naho Kawasumi was more quiet against the Dash, she makes some of the smartest runs off the ball and had a particularly dominating game last season against Boston, where she scored two goals in her first appearance back with Reign FC.
Boston’s defense has some lapses on the outside, and if Seattle can use its width effectively, they should be able to exploit this space. This might be a game where we see Carson Pickett and her pinpoint crosses play a larger role.
Defensively for Seattle, Boston has relied on Adriana Leon, a combination of White or Lavelle, and outside backs Alyssa Chapman and Julie King for width. Leon is tenacious and puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses, but hasn’t yet put herself in many dangerous goal-scoring positions. Chapman, who lines up at left back, can be dangerous in the attack. It will be important to get to her before she has the opportunity to whip the ball into the box.
Both Haley Kopmeyer and Abby Smith have been crucial for their teams in the opening two matches. Kopmeyer put in a Player of the Week performance in the opening match, earning 8 saves against Sky Blue.
Smith missed most of last season with a knee injury, but looks confident in her return — especially coming out of the box to claim shots or crosses. Her distribution could be stronger, but her positioning has kept Boston in both matches so far this season. She has made 9 saves in 2017, matching Kopmeyer’s stats after two games.
Both Boston and Seattle should have a few dangerous opportunities this match, and it could be up to either Kopmeyer or Smith to make a game-saving play for their side.
How to Watch
Seattle Reign kicks off against Boston on Saturday, April 29 at 4 p.m. PT. The game can be watched live on the go90 platform, which is available via the go90 app on iOS and Android phones; on the go90 website via your laptop or desktop; and on your TV via a casting service like Airplay or Chromecast.