Sky Blue FC-Boston Breakers Preview: Three Questions About Keeping the Streak Alive

Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

Sky Blue FC returns home to Yurcak Field in New Jersey on Saturday night to take on the Boston Breakers (7 pm ET, Live on NWSL’s YouTube Channel). Both teams will be missing some key components due to international duty, but is one side better equipped to weather the storm?

1. Who replaces Christie Rampone? The Sky Blue center back and captain has been an integral part of all of Sky Blue's streaks. The five game unbeaten streak, the four match winning streak and the four match shutout streak are all in large part thanks to the 37 year-old Rampone, who's been anchoring an otherwise very young and inexperienced backline through some tough competition. But Rampone is gone with the U.S. Women's National Team, which is taking on Canada in Toronto on Sunday, leaving a pretty huge hole in the Sky Blue defense. Sky Blue has a few other defensive options, but none of them have much experience. One of those - Kelley O'Hara - who's been playing mostly as a forward for Sky Blue, but is an outside back with the USWNT, would normally be Jim Gabarra's go-to when in need of an experienced defender, is she's also away with the national team. Of the other defenders Sky Blue has on the roster, only Melanie Booth and Maddie Thompson have player, but only 11 and 20 minutes respectively, and neither as a center back. Instead, both have come in late in games in place of forwards, as Gabarra's side looked to hold on to some slim leads. Sky Blue also has Lindsi Lisonbee Cutshall, but she's been thus far unavailable for selection. To make matters worse, both Lisonbee Cutshall and Booth are listed only as probable - Booth has a calf strain while Lisonbee Cutshall has an ankle sprain. Sky Blue did call in Rachel Breton, who's listed as a defender and forward, from its reserve team Jersey Blues, but she too has no experience at the pro level. And while Boston did lose Sydney Leroux to national team duty, the Breakers won 3-0 last weekend, with their star striker on the bench. Lianne Sanderson had assists on all three of Boston's goals, winning Player of the Week honors for her performance. The former England international has yet to find the back of the net this season, but she does have six assists, and Sanderson is very much available to play on Saturday night. And Sanderson has broken Sky Blue FC's heart before.

2. Will Sky Blue's forwards please stand up? Sky Blue is top of the table, and on pace with second place Portland in every category, including goals scored. The big difference? Eight of Portland's 12 goals have been scored by the forward tandem of Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan. Sky Blue's forwards meanwhile, have combined for just three of the team's 12 goals. Midfielder Sophie Schmidt leads the team with five on the season, but she too will be gone for international duty with Canada. Sky Blue has plenty of firepower - Lisa De Vanna and Danesha Adams have both scored plenty of goals in their time, just not many with Sky Blue. Gabarra could also give Taylor Lytle her first start of the season with O'Hara absent. The former Texas Tech standout has two goals off the bench for the Jersey side, including the game winner in Portland, and it was Lytle, not Monica Ocampo, who got the nod after O'Hara went down injured in the 20th minute last weekend in Kansas City. But even with Lytle, De Vanna and Adams still need to step up, or Boston will be the team building a shutout streak.

3. Small victories? Heather O'Reilly, former Sky Blue FC hometown hero turned Boston Breaker, will be away with the U.S., and thus not making the trip to face her old club. O'Reilly was always a fan favorite in New Jersey in the WPS days, but her absence on Saturday also ensures the absence of screams of "HAAAAAAAAOOOOOOO" from the throngs of children that populate Yurcak on game day. Boston doesn't return to New Jersey until July 13th, giving those kids plenty of time to learn that you're not supposed to actively cheer for players on the other team. Of course, the real question is, with Sky Blue's run to the top of the table, can the team finally manage to get out of the basement attendance-wise?

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