Beard, Breakers hold keys to first round

Kieran Theivam January 8, 2017 40
Breakers' coach Matt Beard now holds four 1st round picks in next week's NWSL Draft (photo credit: ISI Photos)

Breakers’ coach Matt Beard now holds four 1st round picks in next week’s NWSL Draft (photo credit: ISI Photos)

Head Coach Matt Beard admits that next week’s NWSL College Draft will define the direction his club goes in the future, with the Boston Breakers holding four first-round picks and seven in total.

The Breakers have been without question the busiest club in the league off-season, overhauling the roster that saw them finish bottom of the league in 2016, and bringing in a number of players familiar to Beard from his time in England. But the draft next week presents a solid opportunity for the Breakers to lay the foundations for the next few years, with five of the first 11 picks belonging to the East Coast club, as well as picks 31 and 38.

With a strong draft class this year, the opportunity to stop the rot for the Breakers has never been greater, and Beard admits he looks at what the Western New York Flash were able to achieve in 2015 as he looks to shape his squad.

“Western New York is your best example two years ago of a team that used the draft really well, going onto win a national championship a year later,” he said. “I’ve identified some really good players in the top ten, top 20, even top 30, there’s some real talent available, so we need to get it right.”

Preparation for this year’s draft in Los Angeles could not be any different to that of last year, with Beard only taking on the Boston job two months before the Baltimore event was due to take place. With having to organize a visa, somewhere to live, and moving his family over, he admits that he wasn’t ideally prepared for what was ahead of him.

“I knew last year was going to be tough, I was under no illusions and it was tougher than I had anticipated,” he confessed. “It was really out of my hands and I had to trust the people who were already at the club. We were very relaxed about everything, but then we acquired the number three pick, so it added a bit of pressure.”

Beard learned a lot from last year’s draft, and much more in 2016, following the college game in his first full year in the United States.

Concepts such as roll on, roll off subs, which is fairly unique to the college system, and the number of games played in such short periods of time, were all things the English coach needed to get his head around when scouting players. But watching these young players and selecting the right ones, are two different tasks. First round picks in particular are often expected to hit the ground running immediately, and Boston has four of them.

So what does a coach look for when deciding whom to acquire for their club? Do they go for the player with the highest stock, like Emily Sonnett last year, an international that simply couldn’t be passed up? Or, do you go for the players in the positions you have identified as a priority?

Beard admits it can be difficult.

“It’s a bit of both to be honest with you. In terms of this year, I will identify the best players available who can come to Boston and play the way I like to play.

“This might not necessarily mean that I’m going for the players that maybe others have identified. I want to get the best players available who can come in and compete and create competition for places – which is something we didn’t have last year.”

Ensuring the right players are acquired, doesn’t just center on watching film and attending games, but for Beard, also involves doing research on the players themselves to ensure they fit in with his ethos and bring the right character.

It won’t have gone unnoticed that the former Liverpool coach’s overhaul of his roster has seen him bring in players that he has worked with before. But not only that, players he trusts, who will fight for the cause and who have the right mentality.

But with so many players, from so many universities, spread out across one of the largest countries in the world, how do you even begin to gain that insight on the players that are of interest?

“Its tough, but you watch as many games as you can, and you speak to the player’s coach who works with them every day. In the whole of my recruitment process, I have always wanted to get to know the players, get to know what makes them tick, and absorb as much information about them as possible.”

Getting to know the character of players he’d like to bring in could be key for Beard as those who sign on with the Breakers will be coming into an environment where the L column has been far greater than the W in the last three seasons.

In terms of bringing in those players to turn things around, read the statement aloud to the Breakers coach, “With the first pick of the 2017 NWSL College Draft, the Boston Breakers selects…,” is he in a position to fill the gap?

“Yes, I know whom I want at one, but I’m not telling you,” he chuckles.

“I know who I want at three, at eight and at nine, and if a player goes before it comes to us, then we cross them off and look at our list. There are plenty of top players in this draft, and I know exactly who I want from it.”

  • Movement

    The most critical draft in the history of any team in WUSA/WPS/NWSL.
    This draft is even more vital for Boston than it was for WNY two years ago.
    The Breakers have been as bad as any team in US Women’s Pro Soccer History.
    The turnaround needs to start NOW, right here, in this Draft.

    They need some speed, quickness and swagger. Toni Payne comes to mind here.
    She should be available at pick #9 or #11. The play she made in the last 20 seconds of this match in the video below is one for the ages. Payne would give them much needed speed in their midfield. Send her down the flanks.

    They need a skilled and physical midfielder.
    Morgan Andrews comes to mind. As does Driesse.
    Rose Lavelle would be nice. Andrews may fit their identity more.

    The Breakers need defenders as well (they need everything).
    Getting the duo from USC (Mills/Freeman) would solve some problems.
    Maddie Bauer is a potential future USWNT member.

    And getting 2 out of these 3 goal scorers (Jordan, Hatch, Meehan, Lussi).
    They need to draft a couple of strikers.

    Toni Payne is the most underrated player in this draft.
    The play she made in the final 20 seconds of this match is WORLD CLASS ….

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWwRskJ-KC0

    • Som Termanni

      If the opportunity falls into Boston’s lap, would you have them take both Payne and Gibbons? Between their experience together at Duke and the U23s. there might not be a better pair for built-in chemistry.

      They might as well have been the only two players on the pitch when they demolished the full senior Irish team together back in January ’16 for the U23s.

      • Movement

        Yes, Gibbons is a great player.
        It’s gonna be hard for them to land…
        Jordan/Hatch, Andrews, Gibbons, Payne, Meehan/Lussi.
        And a center back.

        They do have 5 of the Top 11 picks.
        Wish they could make one more trade & get one more Top 11 pick.
        Maybe Brooke Elby, Rosie White, Kylie Strom, and a 2018 3rd round pick to Sky Blue in exchange for the #10 pick in this draft.

        Sky Blue needs “Quantity” of players right now.
        This would give them a roster surplus in this sort of trade.
        The Breakers would then have #1, #3, #8, #9, #10, and #11 picks

        But maybe the Flash/Courage will need “Quantity” for their roster.
        Maybe attempt to send a package like that for the #7 overall pick.

        Or maybe Whitney Engen straight up for the #7 pick.
        Engen goes back to play in Carolina.
        Boston may need to throw in one more “quality” reserve in the deal
        Engen’s stock is at its lowest ever right now.

        The Breakers need to be young as it is.
        And Engen tends to play better for teams outside of Boston.

        Boston has to hit the “Reset” button here.
        It’s their only (and last resort) hope at this point.

        • mockmook

          They would have to get permission from Rosie for such a trade.

          But, don’t know why you want to add what is essentially 3 Forwards (at the expense of other positions)

          They need to completely re-tool the central midfield — then, even if they were stuck with their current forwards (Dowie, Haavi, Simon, White), they would still be very effective.

          BTW, Haavi and White are new, so they have already been rebuilding there.

          • Movement

            They only need to draft 2 forwards, not 3.
            Jordan “or” Hatch
            Meehan “or” Lussi

            They need 2.
            Rosie White is a very mediocre player at this level.
            Simon has been unproductive in Boston.
            Haavi is not a superstar. Dowie is coming along well.

            To win in this “athletic” league, you need to score goals.
            It’s that simple. WNY proved that last year.

            If Boston wants to contend for the playoffs in the future, they need to have better than this (Dowie, Haavi, Simon, White).

            Not good enough.

            And yes, they have needs everywhere.
            Trading for Chapman did at least fill a drastic need.

          • mockmook

            Well, if White is a very mediocre player, then SBFC is not going to go for that deal — they only need quality players, too.

        • Steglitz49

          Whitney Engen needs to concentrate on her post-WoSo playing career. Moving to NC will not add value for her and if she loses her allocations status it would be asinine. She is from CA. Only went ot NC for UNC.

          • guest

            Whitney was released from her USWNT contract last fall so she has already lost her allocated player status.

          • Steglitz49

            Thanks for the confirmation. I knew she was degraded last year but I was not sure whether her allocation went south too.

      • Steglitz49

        The US has such strength in depth and width that their U23 team is very good indeed. The Republic of Ireland was ranked #32 in Dec-15 and is now at #34. Thus, if the US U23 does not demolish Ireland, something is wrong.

    • mockmook

      They “only” have 5 of the top 11 picks — not 8 picks, and other teams get to pick, too 😉

      They likely could get:

      Freeman
      Mills
      Andrews
      Payne
      Hatch

      But, I’d take Jordan over Freeman

      As I said to Bf, with all the talent available in the top 11, they almost can’t mess this up no matter how they mix the picks.

      • Rdalford

        mockmook, the Breakers twitter feed has link to this EQ article so Boston fans (and coaches) may well read the article & comments.
        Perhaps an opportunity to post a beta draft ?

        • mockmook

          Thanks!!! I just posted my latest at the “top” of this thread.

        • mockmook

          Hey Rdalford,

          Any idea on how a player goes about registering for the draft?

          I’m just curious because the procedure doesn’t seem to be obvious on the NWSL website.

    • #1Fan

      Its pace vs a team down 0-1, pressing for an equalizer. World Class? Great play..yes. Fit ..yes. Good player..yes. World Class ? I dont think so.

      • Movement

        World Class instinct, athleticism, and execution.

        • DNG

          Or she’s just faster than her competition.

          • #1Fan

            one team pressing to equalize. One defender back. Good goal. Not world class in my opinion. Instnct ? not really because that is her first thought every time. Even when its the wrong play !! Toni Payne is fairly typical of the upper end player produced by the USA. Athletic, direct, limited composure and inconsistent. I dont think she is underrated. I think her good is pretty good but she does not produce that often enough. I think her inconsistency is the key part of why she is evaluated where she is.

          • DNG

            Right I wasn’t claiming it wasn’t a job well done it was. I don’t think this is an example of a world class attack though. She basically shields of one player before pushing the ball outside and out paces a couple of defenders. There are probably a bunch of other US players who I think can do this. I’ve seen Dunn and Ohai do this multiple times in the last year. When someone claims an attack or player is world class I am expecting to see more.

          • mockmook

            Still. it is pretty impressive energy that late in the game.

          • DNG

            I suppose I wasn’t clear but I think she does very well on this play. Just not world class good.

          • DNG

            “Athletic, direct, limited composure and inconsistent.”

            And I agree with your description here.

          • Movement

            Payne is the perfect fit for this type of “athletic” fast-paced league.

          • #1Fan

            Time will tell. I think we produce quite a few Toni Paynes

      • Rdalford

        re Toni Payne
        I tend to agree with your “athletic, direct, limited composure and inconsistent” assessment for Toni Payne. Payne may end up being an effective forward in NWSL but perhaps more in a sub role. My guess is Payne is likely 2nd (or even 3rd) round pick in NWSL draft.

        • Steglitz49

          I wonder how many players have offers from foreign clubs that they will take up should they be drafted by a team they do not care about?

          After all, few if any of this draft have a chance to play for the USWNT because (most of) the positions for 2019 are already spoken for and 2023 is too far away.

          • Rdalford

            also there a number of players who were expected to register who have not (yet?) registered for the NWSL draft. Players can register up till draft day (Thursday) so some may still register. My assumption is that players (or their agents) are at least looking at offers from foreign clubs whether they are registered for the draft or not. Knowing one’s options is always helpful when making choices.

          • Steglitz49

            My own view is that I would not waste my time with this draft. I would play abroad and braoden my cultural experience while adding to my general CV.

  • MrTemecula

    Why doesn’t soccer split the duties of manager and person responsible for personnel? Split duties works well in other professional American sports. It would seem a manager has too much on their plate during a season to still be responsible for player acquisition at the same time. Scouting players would seem to be a full-time job and having a manager try to squeeze in some time during a season seems to hurt both managing and player acquisition duties.

    • mockmook

      These teams (in general) don’t have the money for extensive scouting

      • Steglitz49

        Supporters of WoSo conveniently overlook that money is in short supply in WoSo.

        The fans must concentrate on getting their friends and enemies to go along to WoSo matches. Instead, WoSo fans prefer to take pot shots at each other. How creative is that?

        More people probably watch MMA bouts between women that then NWSL.

  • Steglitz49

    In spite of their poor seasons, Boston has managed to increase their spectator numbers — (strictly speaking tickets sold/given away but because it is the same metric around the NWSL the distinction does not matter).

    If Boston can continue on that path, they will soon be the 2nd team in the league in terms of attendance. Thus, doing well in the draft may well pay dividends beyond just success on the field.

    Another issue is whether any of the top draftees will take a foreign posting. We now know that Buchanan and Lawrence will play in France. Maybe other players are sitting with offers that they will take if they don’t get the NWSL team of their preference.

  • mockmook

    NWSL — Mock Draft 2017 Beta X.5.0

    01 . Breakers — Jordan ( F ) – Florida
    02 . Flash — Lavelle ( M ) – Wisconsin
    03 . Breakers — Mills, K ( D/M ) – USC
    04 . Sky Blue — Freeman ( D/M ) – USC
    05 . FCKC — Driesse ( M ) – PSU
    06 . Reign — Fletcher, E ( M ) – Cal
    07 . Flash — Gibbons ( D/M ) – Duke
    08 . Breakers — Andrews ( M ) – USC
    09 . Breakers — Vasconcelos ( M/F ) – BYU
    10 . Sky Blue — Hatch ( F ) – BYU
    11 . Breakers — Shaffer ( M ) – Virginia
    12 . Red Stars — Payne ( M/F ) – Duke
    13 . FCKC — Dougherty-Howard ( M ) – Florida
    14 . Thorns — Kolander ( F ) – Minnesota
    15 . Dash — Proffitt ( D/M ) – Marquette
    16 . Red Stars — Stiever ( M ) – Minnesota
    17 . FCKC — Paul, M ( D ) – Georgetown
    18 . Flash — Bauer ( D ) – Stanford
    19 . Spirit — Drennan ( M ) – S.Carolina
    20 . Thorns — Atanda ( M ) – Clemson
    21 . Red Stars — Hill, R ( F ) – UConn
    22 . Pride — Ribeiro ( F ) – UConn
    23 . Sky Blue — Campbell ( GK ) – Stanford
    24 . Sky Blue — Corby ( M ) – GVSU
    25 . FCKC — Prudhomme ( GK ) – USC
    26 . Reign — Donaldson ( M ) – Mizzou
    27 . Thorns — Boon ( D ) – Portland
    28 . Red Stars — Seabert ( GK ) – Pepperdine
    29 . Spirit — McFarlane ( M ) – UNC
    30 . Sky Blue — Iordanou ( D ) – Virginia
    31 . Breakers — Wagner ( D ) – Clemson
    32 . Pride — Onumonu ( F ) – Cal
    33 . Dash — Beal ( D ) – Minnesota
    34 . Sky Blue — Gardner ( D ) – UNC
    35 . FCKC — Johnson, K ( F ) – USC
    36 . Spirit — Jenkins ( F ) – UCLA
    37 . Reign — Ship ( F ) – Cal
    38 . Breakers — Harris, L ( GK ) – UNC
    39 . Red Stars — Smith, E ( D ) – Rutgers
    40 . Thorns — Thomas, C ( F ) – Georgetown

    Boston’s picks:

    01 . Breakers — Jordan ( F ) – Florida
    03 . Breakers — Mills, K ( D/M ) – USC
    08 . Breakers — Andrews ( M ) – USC
    09 . Breakers — Vasconcelos ( M/F ) – BYU
    11 . Breakers — Shaffer ( M ) – Virginia
    31 . Breakers — Wagner ( D ) – Clemson
    38 . Breakers — Harris, L ( GK ) – UNC

    • Steglitz49

      Great work! You are a marvel, Mockmook! The 3M of WoSo.

      Do you have any sense of any college seniors going abroad even if drafted? If so, who?

      • mockmook

        No sense of that at all

        • Steglitz49

          Yet, their chances of playing in WC-19 are slim to say the least and by WC-23 they will be too old. One would assume they would prioritize their grater life-experience including preparing for after WoSo.

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  • guest

    any more opinions of savannah jordan vs ashley hatch? is there a chance hatch is the first forward taken in the nwsl draft?

    • mockmook

      You heard it here first:

      No Chance

      (Unless Jordan hints she will go overseas)

      • Steglitz49

        Jordan must learn to play the percentage game.

        Granted Lawrence’s and Buchanan’s pedigrees were stronger but a good agent ought to get her a good berth.