* = confirmed signed for 2015
(parentheses) = Potentially absent for Women’s World Cup
In A Nutshell:
The Team That Couldn’t Defend last season made a few moves to rectify that situation bringing in Kassey Kallman and Amy Barczuk, but one wonders if it’ll be enough considering all the pieces from that defense that do return. There’s added problems on offense, where the club loses Lianne Sanderson, Jazmine Reeves, and Heather O’Reilly, with the Breakers casting their lot with a whole lot of Brazilians. The biggest gap though may be in midfield, where the club could well be high and dry if Kristie Mewis makes the USWNT WWC roster.
Biggest Needs: DMC, CB, LB, RB, backup GK
GK – *Kranich, (Naeher)
You certainly wouldn’t begrudge Alyssa Naeher a spot on the USWNT’s WWC roster after single-handedly keeping Boston from constant defensive humiliation last season, but the sudden rise of her profile isn’t going to make things easier for the Breakers this season if she does go to Canada. Naeher often stood on her head last season to keep Boston in matches, and being without her for potentially half the season or more could be the death blow to their playoff hopes in 2015. If Naeher doesn’t make the cut, she figures to be busy again given the uncertain backline in front of her.
Plan B? Good luck. The Breakers used Naeher for every single minute of last season, meaning they don’t have a keeper with any actual top-level experience in reserve at the moment. Second-year player Jami Kranich is the existing alternative, but given her utter lack of experience at this level and her disappointing college career, one wonders if Boston will be in the market for a more experienced alternative. At any rate, you’d think the Breakers may want to bring in competition for the understudy role, either through free agency or the draft.
DEF – *King, *Pathman, (Sierra), Stewart, *Whitehill, *Wood, *Kallman, *Barczuk
Well, an optimist would say that Boston may be trying to keep the faith a little with the group that kept two clean sheets in their final three matches of 2014. A realist would argue that the club is also sticking with most of the players who were also there for the first twenty-one matches, in which the club was remarkably bad on defense.
Veteran Cat Whitehill continues to plug away, but that she doesn’t seem to be challenged for a starting spot while in decline and at an advanced age doesn’t portend well for the Breakers. There’s a strong chance that Kassey Kallman, the club’s big defensive addition, will partner her at center-back, despite playing left-back last year. While Kallman proved adept there, she excelled in college at center-back and could be the defensive stalwart the club has been needing for ages. The returning Rachel Wood was competent after being signed from the reserves late but figures to be just a depth option this year. A trade for Amy Barczuk should give the club more options, though she may also line up at defensive midfielder.
Julie King could potentially move back to full-back with Kallman’s arrival, though she also showed she can play in the center last season. Mollie Pathman ended up playing at full-back and eating up a lot of minutes, but it remains to be seen if she’s a long-term option at left-back. Bianca Sierra was picked up midseason in a trade with Washington after surprisingly making the roster as an undrafted free agent, but the seams in her game began to show late in the season with the Breakers. Sierra’s a good bet to be at the WWC with Mexico at any rate, meaning anything they can get from her would be a bonus this season. Chelsea Stewart was rather shockingly allocated by Canada before last season and did little to justify that decision as a rookie. If her allocation status is dropped, she might be axed in favor of some of the club’s (many) draft picks.
Picking up Kallman was a nice start, but this group is still largely composed of replacement level players, meaning many of Boston’s draftees could be additions to the backline.
MF – *Evans, (Mewis), (*Francielle)
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you can spot the significant problem above. The Breakers may be able to put someone like Amy Barczuk in as a defensive midfielder, but it’s a serious stretch to believe that many of their attacking players are going to be able to play as central midfielders, with the likes of Nkem Ezurike and Morgan Marlborough clear target forwards, while Courtney Jones and Nikki Washington, among others, are attacking wingers, through and through.
Kristie Mewis, when she’s here, figures to be the leading light in midfield, either as a left-winger or as the #10. She’s on the fringes of the USWNT squad for the WWC, and her missing out would be a big boost for Boston, with Mewis having every chance to be a dominant figure in the league in her third season. Like the rest of the club’s Brazilian imports, it remains to be seen what Francielle’s role will be, though she may be used in the middle. The Brazilian seems out of favor at international level, and her being here all season would be another big boost.
Maddy Evans brings a nice spark off the bench, but it remains to be seen if she’s anything more than an energy player for the club. The Breakers have been left searching for a defensive midfield solution for two seasons now, and their search doesn’t look any close to being solved heading into the draft. That’s a big need, as well as overall depth.
FW – (Ezurike), *Jones, *Schoepfer, *Washington, *Pires, *Marlborough, (*Andressa), *Ketlen
On paper, it certainly looks like a case of quantity over quality up front for the Breakers who are hardly starved for options in the attack. Quality options? That might be another thing entirely. The club will surely miss Jazmine Reeves, who looked like a potential star last season, as well as Heather O’Reilly out on the flank. Boston did retain most of its rotation players, but it’s hardly a group to set the pulse racing. Katie Schoepfer is Katie Schoepfer, meaning she’ll chew up minutes and score a handful of goals, as she has for what seems like the last half decade. Courtney Jones, thankfully liberated from last season’s disastrous center-back experiment, and Nikki Washington should provide cover on the flanks, though Washington may be edging towards Last Chance Saloon at this point. The real wild card could be Nkem Ezurike, who was taken in the first round of last year’s draft but was outplayed thoroughly by Reeves for much of the season. She could still end up at the Women’s World Cup and could miss much of the season if she makes Canada’s residency roster.
It’s hardly surprising then that the Breakers have added judiciously to their numbers in the attack in the offseason. Morgan Marlborough arrived in the trade that brought Kallman here, but she has it all to prove to show she’s more than just a deal sweetener in said trade after a quiet season with FCKC. Otherwise, Brazilians were the order of the day in offseason acquisitions, as the club added three to the mix. The big catch was Andressa, who broke through to the senior Brazilian WNT in 2012 and is a likely bet to make the senior side again for the WWC. That could be problematic depending on the amount of time she’ll miss, as she’s bound to need some to settle at this level with a new club. Compatriot Ketlen should be with Boston the whole season but is a much rawer talent, and a brief, scoreless stint in Sweden with Vittsjo may not bode well. The club also signed reserve player Suzane Pires, who featured for Boston’s reserve side last year. With a collegiate career spent with tiny Southern Connecticut, some may have nightmare flashbacks of the Melissa Ortiz fiasco, but Pires should have every chance to prove her worth.
It might be like throwing darts to pick out forwards for a while with this group. Given the needs elsewhere and the sheer numbers though, it doesn’t seem likely Boston will add too many more forwards in the draft.