When the Breakers’ coaching job came open in early August the list of interested candidates included names from around the globe. In the end the man who landed the job won’t have to change addresses. And if you told Tom Durkin two months ago that he was going to be coaching the Breakers in 2014, he would have chuckled at the idea.
“When Cat Whitehill was appointed as the interim coach, she reached out to a friend of mine and he was too busy to help actually,” Durkin told The Equalizer. “So he indicated that I might be available. I was sort of off for the summer with my teams. I talked to her and it sounded compelling so I went down.”
The Whitehill era wound up a respectable 2-1-1, but the plan was always to find a full-time coach for next season and allow Whitehill to focus on playing and being captain. Still, it never crossed Durkin’s mind that he would be that coach.
“I suppose they liked what I did and they asked me if I would be interested in doing it full time,” said Durkin, who added that he was pleasantly surprised by both the level of play and commitment of the players. “The more I thought about it, the girls are very good ambassadors for this game and they really want this league to succeed. They’re willing to go the extra mile, which sometimes their male counterparts are not willing to do. I felt strongly about trying to help out this fledgling league. And I felt real comfortable in the environment. So it was really a no-brainer for me.”Getting in the door was one thing. Now comes the hard part. How to take a .500 club that found a variety of ways to surrender points and move them into the top four. Durkin, whose former employer, IMG, turned out the likes of Erika Tymrak and Michael Parkhurst, feels the Breakers are not far off from where they want to be. Then again, so too do the other non-playoff teams.
“I think the team underperformed a little bit. I think they know that. They were picking up things really quickly and have the potential to be a really strong, build-up style team. I think they have the nucleus of players to play more than one system effectively.”
Durkin said that when he began working with the Breakers he found a group lacking some self-belief – not surprising considering they had stumbled through much of the summer and gone through a coaching change. He also saw confidence seep back into the club over the final three weeks of the campaign.
“The roster is strong,” he said. “There are one or two positions that either the player would have to improve or you would have to improve the personnel in those positions. But even with the group that we have I think with a little luck that team could have got to the final.”
Whitehill and Durkin did their part to tinker with the formation, although admittedly there was not enough time to completely remake the shape. The most obvious move was to take out the second holding midfielder.
“The adjustment was basically going from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2,” explained Durkin. “We looked at modifying the midfield into two different shapes so we would outnumber the opponent at the point of attack.”
The tinkering was also geared towards opening up space for Lianne Sanderson, who Durkin said teams had been keying on as the season progressed.
Looking ahead to the off-season Durkin feels he has a healthy grasp on the international game and has already lined up some of his friends in the college game to lend a hand ahead of the draft.
“I’m a pretty quick study,” he said. “One of my stronger assets is identifying players who can play at the next level. So I feel pretty confident that we should do well in the draft.”
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