After missing the entire month of June due to injury, Boston Breakers midfielder Leslie Osborne returned to the field July 4 to a team that had not won a game in almost three months.
The Breakers defeated the Washington Freedom 2-1 April 10 and proceeded to go nine games without a win. Boston had lost four-straight entering July 4 and negativity was spreading throughout the team. Osborne was absent from all three of those loses due to a leg infection that resulted from a contusion suffered May 29 in a 0-0 draw with Sky Blue FC. For Osborne, watching her teammates struggle was like torture, but the Breakers have new-found positivity.
“That is going to carry over to on the field and we keep plugging away and people are starting to get negative and people are starting to get really frustrated with themselves and negative and it’s hard to see so many people like that, especially when you see so many great leaders on the team get like that,” Osborne said of the team’s struggles. “So, what I just try to do is just kind of ‘fake it until you make it’ kind of thing. Stay positive, control what you can control and it’s going to come. It’s going to come. Just keep reminding them. I don’t know, I think our team really has been ourselves for a while. I think we just needed the luck to go our way for just one game.”
That turnaround came to the tune of a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Independence in that July 4 match, but the luck did not end there. Sunday, the Breakers scored three goals in five minutes to top the Atlanta Beat 3-1 at Harvard Stadium. Osborne was initially credited with two assists in the match but both were later taken away upon video review. Still, she was involved in Boston’s attack and was especially creative in the final third for a holding midfielder.
To suggest that Osborne’s return to the squad is the sole reason for Boston’s recent turnaround would be ludicrous, but she has played a massive role in sorting out the Breakers midfield. Osborne is a true holding midfielder that distributes the ball well from just in front of her central defenders and her inclusion into the line-up has allowed Boston Head Coach Tony DiCicco to push more numbers forward. DiCicco has the freedom to take more risks with his formation and give Kelly Smith, Lindsay Tarpley, Kristine Lilly, Laura Del Rio and Lauren Cheney to push forward with Osborne’s ability to hold down the center of the park on her own. That was evident in Philadelphia when the team switched to a 3-5-2 formation with Osborne sitting in front of the back three.
“Tony likes me as a defensive center midfielder,” Osborne said. “For our team to be successful he thinks that that is the position I should play on this team.”
DiCicco also values Osborne’s leadership abilities, which had to come from the bench as she recovered from her leg infection (which will not fully heal until after the season).
“Well I think she is a leader not only on the field but off,” DiCicco said. “She organizes, she has great ball-winning ability, she makes good decisions with the ball and having her in center midfield, her experience, I think is a big plus for us.”
As the Breakers (3-5-4, 13 pts.) continue to try to turn around their season, Osborne’s presence in the middle of the pitch will be key. She has to be careful to ensure that the cut on her leg, which runs up the middle of her shin along the tibia, does not re-open during the season. That will be a constant worry for her throughout the season, but Osborne elects to just stay positive.
“I am so lucky,” she said. “I live a life that I love. If I am sitting out and I have to watch my team it is hard, but then you are like, wait a second, let’s get back to reality here. It’s like a constant mind game for me if I get down. It’s hard to see the team lose three in a row and just sit there and at the end of the day it is like, gosh, it could be so much worse. So, that’s kind of how I look at things.”
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