By Lee Pender
After slipping into a 4-4-2 formation in the 1-1 home draw to Philadelphia last weekend, the Boston Breakers will look to come out firing on Sunday in St. Louis, with Fabiana likely returning to a lineup that should once again feature three forwards.
The team today revealed its probable starting lineup for Sunday's match against Athletica, which Fox Soccer Channel will broadcast live at 6pm. Fabiana was on the substitutes' bench for last week's match against the Independence but played 90 minutes in a 2-1 win at Washington on opening day. She'll team up with Kelly Smith and newcomer Lauren Cheney up front, and will take the starting spot held last Sunday by midfielder Chima Igwe, who battled bravely and effectively in a gritty match.
Should a winner emerge from this weekend's clash, that team will take over sole possession of first place in the WPS. A draw on Sunday, however, could complicate the league table at this point in the season considerably. Each side has a win and a draw to its credit, and both are tied atop the league with four points. St. Louis, like Boston, won its opener and drew its second match, locking up 1-1 with Chicago last weekend.
Also like Boston, St. Louis already has a two-goal scorer this season, with England's Eniola Aluko having tallied in each of her first two matches. Breakers veteran Smith also has two goals this season. The Aluko-Smith duel will mirror one of English football's more bitter rivalries of late, as Aluko is a former player for Chelsea Ladies and Smith is a veteran of the Arsenal Ladies squad. Crafty St. Louis midfielder Shannon Boxx, who has two assists this season, will try to slice through the shrunken Boston midfield and continue her good run of form.
Last week, the Breakers' midfielders managed to clog the center of the pitch against a Philadelphia team that was mostly determined to do the same thing. The result was a foul-weather draw largely played closer to the center circle than to the penalty areas, with quality chances relatively few and far between and physical battles frequent. Sunday's game, though, given Boston's probable 4-3-3 lineup, should yield more scoring opportunities for both sides--although it's worth noting that the Breakers have allowed two goals this season, while Athletica has conceded only one. Both sides have tallied three times thus far.
Boston will be looking to improve on its performances against St. Louis from last season; after winning the opener between the two teams 2-0, the Breakers dropped both of the other games in the series, each by scores of 1-0. Newcomer Ashley Phillips will continue her adventure in goal for Boston, while the excellent Hope Solo will be in net for St. Louis.
Happily for soccer fans, the forecast for Sunday in St. Louis calls for a high in the upper 60s with a chance of thunderstorms. Last Sunday's drizzly, chilly weather in Boston didn't dampen fans' enthusiasm but did likely affect the quality of the match.
Match info: St. Louis Athletica vs. Boston Breakers at the Anheuser-Busch Soccer Park in Fenton, Missouri on Sunday, April 25. Fox Soccer Channel will televise the game live at 6pm.
Lee Pender and Steven Apostolov are co-authors of Boston Breakers Report.