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It’s make or break for Breakers today

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / August 14, 2011

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If ever there were a must-win situation, this is it for the Breakers. A victory over Sky Blue FC today would clinch a playoff berth for the team and possibly provide a confidence boost for investors.

As Women’s Professional Soccer completes its third regular season, it faces questions about its future. The Breakers have slumped on the field and are losing one of their owners.

“The league has had its ups and downs, but for the most part it is hanging in there in really difficult economic times,’’ said Breakers coach Tony DiCicco. “Unfortunately, both leagues [WUSA and WPS] started in the worst possible economic times - the collapse, and now a recession. If the league can survive this period, once the economy turns around and is stable, it should be all right.

“I’m optimistic for next year, I was for this year. The expansion committee is dealing with a bunch of markets which are interested, especially after the [Women’s World Cup].

“This league has star power now with Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Lauren Cheney, Megan Rapinoe, Heather O’Reilly, and down the list - they have legitimate star power because they go beyond the sport of soccer, and women’s soccer.

“Now they’re known in the sports community, not just the soccer community. Star power is a wonderful thing because it attracts ticket sales and sponsors.’’

The Breakers (4-9-4, 16 points) have eight players who performed in the World Cup in Germany. The Sky Blue (5-8-4, 19 points) have O’Reilly, a starter on the right wing for the US team that lost the title game to Japan in Frankfurt last month.

But since the national team players returned, the Breakers have gone 0-4-1. Cheney and Kelly Smith have not fully recovered from ankle injuries sustained in Germany.

“Chemistry is the biggest thing for us,’’ said Breakers captain Leslie Osborne. “And we’ve had so many different lineups. It’s so great to have everybody back, but it’s still hard because we’ve had so many people on the field for us at different times.’’

In 2003, the WUSA’s third and final season, the Breakers won the regular-season title but lost in the first game of the playoffs. They were revived in 2009 with WPS, losing to Sky Blue with a playoff spot on the line in the final game, then qualifying for the playoffs last year with a win over Sky Blue.

“Every offseason, people go through their doubts,’’ Osborne said. “We really hope someone steps up and helps this Breaker organization go on. I hope that if the WPS goes on in 2012 the Breakers will be a part of it.

“Everybody kind of looks to the Breakers organization, and hopefully we can find more people to step up. This league is so important for so many girls and people out there, especially with this World Cup and the Olympics coming up. It would be a big shame if this didn’t go on.’’

DiCicco anticipated the problems of having so many national teamers this season. But the loss of Jordan Angeli (knee) after the season opener and absence of Cheney and Smith have been major factors in the lack of scoring.

“It’s a plus we have good players on this team and it’s a negative they’re injured,’’ DiCicco said. “There’s been a lot of adversity this year, and maybe I could have managed it better. But I’m proud they’ve hung in there.

“I guess if there’s a bright spot to the season, it’s our young players, how they’ve stepped in and done really well. If you look at their record, they had a five-game stretch of two wins and three ties during the World Cup. Two of those were 0-0 ties, and that’s part of our problem - if you score goals, those are wins and maybe we aren’t in the situation we’re in now.

“Now, if we play our best soccer, we have a chance to win the championship. That’s how close the top team is to the teams that don’t get into the playoffs. We just need to put it together [today] and carry it into the playoffs.’’

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