Boston Breakers season preview: taking it day by day

Dan Lauletta April 4, 2017 26
With a year under his belt, Matt Beard is ready to take the Breakers off the bottom of the table (photo credit: ISI Photos)

With a year under his belt, Matt Beard is ready to take the Breakers off the bottom of the table (photo credit: ISI Photos)

2016 record: 3-15-2, 11 pts (10th place)
Playoffs: 
did not qualify
Head Coach: 
Matt Beard
Home Ground: Jordan Field

The story of ’16

The Breakers opened 2016 on an ominous note when they conceded a bicycle kick goal to Joanna Lohman three minutes in. Things hardly got better from there. That was April 16. The Breakers did not score a goal for themselves until May 22 and after being shut out five consecutive times. On July 10 in Orlando the Breakers took a 1-0 lead into the final minute only to concede the equalizer in the 90th minute after losing Brooke Elby to a red card, and then lost the match in the 93rd minute. That loss dropped the Breakers to 1-10-1, long beyond the point of having lost the season, and extended their futility outside Boston to 19 games (0-17-2.)

The next away match, in Kansas City, did see the end of the two-year winless run, and after being blanked in seven of their first nine matches the team did manage to play their final 11 being shutout only twice. But other than the midseason arrival of Natasha Dowie, very little went right in Matt Beard’s first season as head coach. Three wins and 11 points both represent the fewest of any team in NWSL history, and Breakers remain the only one of the eight founding clubs to reach the playoffs or even finish a season with a winning record. Over the last three years the Breakers have finished ahead of only one team—the expansion Houston Dash in 2014.

“It’s definitely not been easy,” Julie King, the only Breaker remaining from the NWSL’s debut season, said. “It’s been really hard, really frustrating. It’s been mentally exhausting.”

What happened over the winter

What didn’t happen over the winter? Beard not only overhauled the roster, he did so in such a way that he felt comfortable bringing only 22 players into preseason—10 short of the league maximum.

“I wanted to concentrate on the group of players that we’ve recruited. From my perspective the intensity and the standard of training has been set from day one. Last year I think I had the maximum I could have and it was a nightmare on day one. We have a reserve system we can utilize if we have to.”

{MORE PREVIEWS:  Harvey, Reign trying to get back in playoff mix}

The other part of Beard’s thinking with regards to the short camp roster is that he was able to target and acquire the players he wanted. On the international market the Breakers brought in Rosie White, Emilie Haavi (out 4-6 weeks with a broken jaw), and Adriana Leon—all of whom should contribute offensively. The trade market yielded Allysha Chapman, Amanda Da Costa, and Megan Oyster. Amanda Frisbie and Tiff Weimer are hoping for career revivals after being signed off the scrap heap.

Beard also infused the team with youth, finagling his NWSL counterparts to secure four 1st round picks including No. 1 overall Rose Lavelle. Morgan Andrews, Ifeoma Onumonu, and Margaret Purce also went to Boston in the opening nine picks.

“I’m really excited about the changes and really impressed with the changes we were able to make over a year’s time,” King said. “It’s about time that the Breakers get back on the map.”

Player to Watch

Seven weeks after being the top pick in the draft, Rose Lavelle saw the field for the first time as a U.S. international. The match will be remembered as a late, 1-0 loss to England and—for those who were there—the frigid temperatures and biting winds. But Lavelle’s play in midfield caught the eye of U.S. coach Jill Ellis who told the press afterwards: “That was a great answer.

 

Rose Lavelle addressing the room after the Breakers made her the top pick in the NWSL draft

Rose Lavelle addressing the room after the Breakers made her the top pick in the NWSL draft

Her club coach said of Lavelle:  “We’ve got a player now in Rose Lavelle who can beat players by moving the ball.”

It remains to be seen how much responsibility Beard puts on Lavelle, but with a young team built around the youngsters there seems no reason to believe she won’t be prominently involved from the get-go. Being the focal point for a young club team every week can sometimes be more difficult than hopping in with national team players who can pull you along, but if the Breakers are to make significant progress this year and beyond, the speedy, technically sound Lavelle figures to be in the mix.

Best Case Scenario

A year after he opened camp by laying out goals for the club, Beard is taking the simple approach this season.

“There’s no targets. We’re just going to take it day by day and game by game,” he said. “I knowthat sounds like cliché but last year we came in and I spoke about being ambitious and wanting to achieve things and I think that put the players under pressure straight away. I feel like this year I can’t affect what happens in a month’s time, I can only affect what happens today and tomorrow. That’s what we’re going to focus on. If that gets us to the top end of the table that’s fantastic.”

While growing pains will be inevitable, if the back line plays at its optimum level there is enough attacking personality in Boston to win matches and keep the team respectable. If the Breakers reach September having proven they are no longer pushovers on the road, and if the September math is about getting into the playoffs instead of clinching the No. 1 pick, it will be difficult to argue that it was not a successful season.

Cause for Pause

With Engen out of the mix, Oyster becomes the focal point of a backline that has several solid players but no tried and true leader or international level player. Add in a goalkeeper exiting serious surgery with less than two full games of professional experience and the defense will be under the gun to keep the ball out of the back of the net.

“We’ve got flexibility there. We’ve got versatility as well,” Beard said.

But if the defense falters early, it could be another long year at Jordan Field, and no one wants to go into another offseason with another new coach.

Final Outlook

The Breakers are going to score goals. Beard says he will line them up in an attacking formation and look to keep the ball moving. Whether or not they can keep opponents from doing the same, and create a winning mentality in the process, will determine how the 2017 Boston Breakers will be remembered.

“Most important for me,” Beard said, “is that we’ve got players that can play and pass the ball. Looking at the players we’ve got in midfield and the players we’ve got up front, we’ve got goals in this team.”

  • Som Termanni

    If a team crashes and burns with one game on TV and no way to stream it, does anyone notice?

    • Bruce

      Literally laughing out loud at that.

  • guest

    The two quotes from Beard are interesting
    on defense
    ” “We’ve got flexibility there. We’ve got versatility as well,” Beard said.”
    and on attack
    ” “Most important for me,” Beard said, “is that we’ve got players that can play and pass the ball. Looking at the players we’ve got in midfield and the players we’ve got up front, we’ve got goals in this team.” ”

    I hope for Boston’s and a competitive NWSL sake that Boston has a better season, but I do not have confidence that defense will be able to stop other NWSL teams.
    Also hope that Beard does as little harm as possible to development of young players

  • Reality
    • Katie Curtiss

      maybe but Abby Smith will be #1 until otherwise something happens, she was great last year until she got hurt. Now back and healthy, she will only get better

      • Reality

        Smith only played a few games last year. Who knows what Beard will do, but there should at least be an open competition between Smith and Prudhomme.

        • Breakers fan

          Agree. One big question, considering the seriousness of Smith’s injury, is how well, how fully she has recovered from the torn patellar tendon injury. Has she lost any mobility, any quickness, any jumping power?

          • Reality

            Where ya been? I was waiting for your assessment of all the changes to the Breaker’s roster. Your questions re: Smith are well phrased. I really have no idea how Boston will fare this year. They seem to have potential, but I am unsure about how Beard will manage the potential on the team.

          • Breakers fan

            Just haven’t had much to say in this sort of slow period for the sport. That, or others have voiced my opinion about things already. About the Breakers – it’s so hard to predict how the team will do, with so many of them being new additions. I do get the feeling from following them on social media that there is a good spirit and attitude with this group. Losing Haavi hurts, even though I’ve never seen her play, so I can’t say how much it hurts. Don’t know what’s up with the Onumonu situation – that could be significant. Oyster and….I hope Frisbie in the middle in back are important. It’s also hard to predict what the starting midfield and forward line will be, exactly. I’m in that hopeful state of mind that probably all fans exist in with their favorite team before a season starts. I see potential too but don’t know how they’ll gel and how they stack up against the rest of the league. If I go to the scrimmage against U Conn I’ll weigh in, but that’s a U Conn team who just lost its 2 best players in Hill and Ribeiro so they probably aren’t that strong. Even so, seeing a team is always good and tells you a little something at least. Hope you and everyone else is doing well. Looking forward to what will no doubt be a fun and interesting season. I get the feeling that it’ll be the best season yet for the league. Will be fun to see what players emerge unexpectedly. I hope some do from this draft class, since I followed the college season pretty closely and grew to like a lot of players from it.

          • Reality

            If you go to the U Conn scrimmage, please share with us your impressions. Most of the talk here is on the top teams so it is refreshing and important to hear how Boston is progressing. Whatever happens this season, enjoy your team!

          • Breakers fan

            Will do. Thanks for the good wishes – back at ya!

          • mockmook

            The guys at AWK seem to think it will be Oyster and King as the CBs

            They (well, Jon) speculated that we will (or should) see Chapman as a DM

            And, they were very pro Westphal, but as a mid.

            http://www.allwhitekit.com/?p=15274

  • Rdalford

    Breakers sign (draftee) GK Prudhomme
    the announcements notes that Prudhomme is replacement for injured Stout.
    my guess is Breakers are using “goalkeeper replacement” clause in NWSL roster rules
    “In the case of an injured goalkeeper, or where a Team has less than two available goalkeepers, a Team will be able to add a goalkeeper to its Roster until its goalkeeper is back to full participation with the Team.”
    which allows Breakers to avoid/delay making Stout/Prudhomme GK decision. Salaries for all 3 GKs count against cap but Stout may not count against 20 player roster until she returns from injury. The injuries to Stout and Haavi and may perhaps allow Breakers to sign Onumonu (and/or? Dowd). Otherwise already at 20 player limit (counting both Stout and Haavi) and would need to waive some else to sign Onumonu

    • Breakers fan

      Thanks for that goalkeeper rule, I was wondering about that. I really hope they sign Onumonu. I don’t understand why that hasn’t happened already. She is the forward he (Beard) wanted most — the one that he was able to get at that point in the draft anyway. Before Purce, who has signed. So it’s very strange to me that she has gone unsigned as yet. I don’t know if it’s a dollar amount issue or a geography issue (I’m pretty sure she’s a California girl). But without her the team doesn’t have a tall, fast forward. If that draft pick goes to waste it’s a pretty big loss, considering they had 9 picks to begin with and needed to shore up the forward position. We’ll find out soon enough. All I know now is that they’ve signed all the other draftees, (not including Dowd who will likely be a reserve team player), 2 of them drafted after her.

      edit: and now with Haavi out for a good while it seems that signing Onumonu would be even wiser. They have an free, open to the public scrimmage against U Conn this Friday night which I may attend. Will be interested to see how much playing time each player gets. Will be easier for some with Lavelle and Oyster away.

  • Steglitz49

    Haavi broke her jaw. Broke her jaw!??!

    • guest

      Apparently training with Norwegian Women’s National Team is rough.

      • Was it with Norway or in Boston? I thought I read that it happened in the States but she returned to Norway while she heals?

        • guest

          Excelle sports report seems to indicate she had already returned to Norway and was injured in Norway

          ” … The forward suffered the injury during a practice session last Friday. Last week, Haavi had returned to Norway to train with the Norwegian Women’s National Team to prepare for an upcoming friendly. She will stay in Norway to heal before returning to Boston.”

          • Thanks for clarifying!

  • Guest

    “the Breakers are going to score a lot of goals” ……Not necessarily.

    Dowie can

    Haavi is injured, Leon and Weimer are not real threats, and the rest are unproven rookies.

    • Alex

      I think they’ll have a lot more threat going forward, not necessarily due to the forwards but to the improvements to the midfield over last season.

    • GT

      Tough break (no pun intended) because I agree, they need Haavi to score goals.

  • Bold prediction: Boston will finish above Washington. (Yay for not being the bottom for a 2nd/3rd year in the row??!

    • mockmook

      I don’t see much (if any) improvement in defense vs 2016 for Boston.

      And, based on 2016, I have no reason to suspect that Beard will get the best out of his players. Every indication is that he is a terrible coach.

      So, my initial pass at a prediction: I think Boston will once again secure that last spot.

      • Even if the defense is last in the league, Rose Lavelle is a difference maker. Boston lost many games by one goal last year. I think they could surprise people and move up a few spots this year.

  • Terry Lash

    This is a make or break season for Beard. He has had his chance to redo the roster and coaching staff. Either there is significant improvement in team success or he should be shown the door. Finishing above the Spirit would be significant improvement in my book.