New England Soccer Today

A New Wave

Photo credit: Boston Breakers

Photo credit: Boston Breakers

How do you bounce back from an eighth place finish without three of your top scorers? That’s the quandary confronting Boston Breakers coach Tom Durkin going into the 2015 NWSL season.

The departures of Heather O’Reilly (nine goals), Jazmine Reeves (seven goals), and Lianne Sanderson (five goals) have left the Breakers with enormous voids to fill in the final third. But given the team’s well-documented defensive struggles (53 GA, the worst in NWSL) last season, Durkin appears to be more concerned about fielding a sturdier selection.

“I think, overall, we’re more balanced than we were last year,” Durkin said in club statement on Monday. “We have some really good, young talent. As long as we’re able to keep a level head, I think the team is going to be really competitive.”

One player the Breakers can certainly count upon this year is 2014 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year Alyssa Naeher, who’ll be back for a third season. Naeher will have veteran center backs Cat Whitehill and Julie King in front of her, as well as newcomer Kassey Kallman, who joins the Breakers after helping FC Kansas City win last year’s title.

In the middle third, U.S. International Kristie Mewis and veteran Katie Schoepfer will both be back, hoping to bring the kind of veteran leadership the Breakers will need with so many new faces. Two of those new faces are Amy Braczuk, who comes to Boston via Western New York, and newly-signed fourth round pick Stephanie Verdoia. The Breakers have also brought in Brazilian internationals Bia, Suzane Pires and Rafinha during the offseason.

Replacing O’Reilly’s production will be a tough task, without question, but the cupboard isn’t completely bare. The Breakers retained Canadian International Nkem Ezurike (two goals in 11 games) and acquired Morgan Marlborough (two goals in 10 games) from FC Kansas City. They also drafted Boston College’s Stephanie McCaffrey, who scored six goals and added seven assists during her senior year at Chestnut Hill.

But Durkin isn’t just counting upon his first XI to get the job done this season.

“The roster is always tricky with 20 people,” Durkin said. “So your last couple decisions are obviously people who can play in a few different spots.

On paper, it looks like 2015 might be a rebuilding year for the Breakers. With a number of young players and no top-choice U.S. Women’s National Team player on the roster, no one in Beantown is talking about a title this year. But that doesn’t necessary mean that Durkin’s group is destined for another disappointing finish.

The fact that there aren’t any high-profile internationals may just work in the Breakers’ favor. While the likes of FC Kansas City, Seattle Reign and Chicago Stars will all be without their top stars this summer due to the World Cup, the locals squad will be relatively unaffected by the month-long tournament.

The Breakers will kick off the season on Saturday at Portland. And who knows? With a renewed commitment to balance, and a host of players all looking to make a name for themselves, 2015 could have its fair share of pleasant surprises.

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