After missing out on the playoffs last season, the Boston Breakers are in for a changing of the guard, with new voice Tom Durkin at the helm. Captain Cat Whitehill will serve double duty as a player/assistant coach to aid Durkin in his first season.
Boston’s roster has been significantly overhauled and features new additions in; Australian striker Lisa De Vanna, Canadian midfielder Kaylyn Kyle and U.S. international Kristie Mewis to help fill the void left by the departure of Sydney Leroux.
The club however will see some familiarity, returning to their old WPS stomping ground the historic Harvard Stadium.
In an off season that started with the hiring of a new head coach, the Breakers mainly added pieces to surround the midfield core of their roster.
After acquiring Kyle from Seattle, Boston made a blockbuster trade with the Reign shipping off the club’s leading goal scorer in Leroux for Hanson, Mass., native Mewis, a first and second round 2015 pick and backup keeper Michelle Betos (who was flipped to Portland at the NWSL Draft for (34th selection Kimberly DeCesare and a second round pick in 2015).
While the seeding of the picks still has a year to be determined, Mewis will likely ascend into a key role for the Breakers. They also acquired defenders Courtney Jones and Chelsea Stewart.
Not only will the Breakers be without Leroux but a flurry of players won’t be back for the upcoming season. Kyah Simon tore her ACL and will miss the entire 2014 season, defenders Kia McNeil and Rhian Wilkinson announced they wouldn’t be returning to the Breakers and Carmelina Moscato along with Mariah Nogueira were dealt in trades.
The Breakers made a significant splash in the 2014 NWSL Draft selecting and signing 5 players. Michigan and Canadian national team forward Nkem Ezruike (eighth overall), Virgina forward Jazmine Reeves (21st overall) and Duke star Mollie Pathman (23rd overall).
They also drafted Duke defender Natasha Anasi (13th overall), and added keeper Jami Kranich (32nd overall).
Alyssa Naeher will be the day one starting keeper after taking over the role from Ashley Phillips last season. Naeher has seemingly found a place on the U.S. national team during the offseason and is now an allocated player. The 25-year-old was called up during November training camps and was named to the Algarve Cup roster.
Villanova product Kranich will be the Breakers’ second-choice keeper and finished her career as a Wildcat with 12 shutouts in 64 appearances with a goals against average of 1.59.
Kranich was a member of the 2012 U.S. Under-20 Women’s National team that won the U-20 Women’s World Championship in Japan
Former keeper Ashley Phillips will serve as the club’s goalkeeper coach.
The Breakers will start a young group of defenders on the back line with veteran Cat Whitehill.
Along with their captain; Jazmyne Avant, Bianca D’Agostino and Julie King all return to the back line from last season.The departures of McNeil and Wilkinson should be filled by new additions Jones and Stewart. Of all the positions on Boston their back line endured the least amount of changeover from a year ago.
The strongest aspect of the Breakers squad was the play of their midfielders. Durkin retains their strong contingent of veteran midfielders to work with and some additions in Mewis, Kyle, King and Pathman.
Mewis will likely step into a large role for the Breakers, and will most likely be featured on the left wing for the Breakers but has played left back for the national team.
Kyle played out of position last season on Seattle’s back line and should be in a more comfortable environment in Boston. Look for the Canadian to bring her style of hard tackling and gritty toughness to the team.
Pathman has had a tremendous preseason showcasing both her attacking and playmaking abilities. She should make a big impact for the club in a non-starting role.
The returning trio of Joanna Lohman, Heather O’Reilly and Lianne Sanderson combined for 12 goals and 13 assists a season ago, with Sanderson accounting for 7 assists. The play of these three seasoned veterans will set the tone for the entire club.
Boston’s play in the attacking third will need to improve to help overcome the departure of Leroux.
Katie Schoepfer, who netted 2 goals last season, is the only returning forward on the roster. Lisa De Vanna will look to lead a newly restructured forward core that contains two rookies.
The Australian international will be looking to increase her five-goal mark from her time with Sky Blue FC in 2013.
Rookies Ezurike and Reeves should provide plenty of minutes and offense but their roles will depend on how Durkin utilizes them.
Twenty of Boston’s 34 goals were scored by players who are not on the 2014 Breakers roster, which could be pose a problem this season.
If DeVanna and the core group of cast midfielders aren’t able to pick up where Leroux’s scoring left off, it could be a long season for Boston who might miss out on the playoffs yet again. Another key the Breakers will be finding a center back to pair with Whitehill and replace vocal center back McNeill who started in all but one game last season.
The 2014 season will be a transition year for Boston, with a new coach and a lot of fresh faces to add to the mix in New England.