After an exciting-yet-often-chaotic 2013 off-season, the Breakers will enter 2014 with several new faces - both on the field and on the sideline. So, how does the roster size up? And which players will serve as difference-makers this season? Our position-by-position break down continues with Boston's defensive anchors.
2014 Projected Depth Chart: Defenders
1. Julie King
After contributing 1,862 minutes in 2013, King may represent the most underrated defender on Head Coach Tom Durkin's roster. The St. Louis, Mo. native is consistent, quick and frequently plays dangerous crosses into the box, earning a sure spot on the Starting XI for the foreseeable future. King's durability will once again benefit an inconsistent back line that will welcome all four starters from 2013.
2014 Projection: 21 appearances (21 starts), 1,880 minutes, 0 goals, 2 assists
2. Jazmyne Avant
Avant, a somewhat afterthought in Portland, joined the Breakers last summer and immediately made an impact. The University of Florida alum started every possible match in blue and white, flashing all the qualities of an elite wing back: joins the attack with pace, tracks back with the league's quickest forwards and always makes her presence known. The eventual champion Thorns lost track of the speedy defender along a crowded back line, and the Breakers pounced quickly. Expect Avant to serve as an indisputable starter in 2014.
2014 Projection: 20 appearances (20 starts), 1,780 minutes, 0 goals, 2 assists
1. Cat Whitehill
A dominant force in the middle (and on the sideline), captain Whitehill's presence spans beyond her role as a central defender. The assistant coach displays immeasurable leadership qualities on the field, consistently inspiring her team, both on the back line and in the locker room. Combined with the strength to push opposing forwards off the ball, Whitehill completes the ideal player-coach package. The UNC alum may not miss a start in 2014.
2014 Projection: 22 appearances (22 starts), 1,970 minutes, 1 goals, 1 assist
2. Kia McNeil
McNeil, much like Whitehill, challenges attackers with a tough, durable frame, consistently earning a spot on the Starting XI. After contributing 1,890 minutes in 2013, the Boston College product showed all the tools of a reliable defender. With little center back competition, expect McNeil to earn a starting role out of the gate and never look back.
2014 Projection: 21 appearances (21 starts), 1,870 minutes, 0 goals, 0 assists
1. Chelsea Stewart
Stewart joined the Breakers during January's NWSL Allocation Draft, providing extensive experience with the Canadian National Team. The Colorado native will most likely replace Rhian Wilkinson, who was not allocated, as an outside midfielder/defender. Although Stewart primarily serves as a midfielder when representing Canada, her versatility to drop into the back line will help earn valuable minutes off the bench. Expect Stewart to represent Durkin's fifth defender.
2014 Projection: 8 appearances (2 starts), 270 minutes, 0 goals, 1 asssist
2. Bianca D'Agostino
D'Agostino contributed 1,082 minutes as a midfielder for the 2012 WPS Elite Breakers, one of just seven Breakers to eclipse the 1,000-minute mark. Unfortunately, during the 2013 preseason, the Longmeadow, Mass. native suffered a torn ACL, missing the entire NWSL season. With D'Agostino, it seems difficult to pin a true projection; the 25-year-old has yet to truly develop into the player previous Head Coach Lisa Cole expected, mostly due to injuries and lack of exposure. If healthy, expect D'Agostino to push Stewart as Durkin's first option off the bench.
2014 Projection: 5 appearances (0 starts), 80 minutes, 0 goals, 0 assists
3. Natasha Anasi
Anasi, the youngest member of Boston's back line, joined the Breakers as the 13th overall pick in the 2014 NWSL College Draft. Much like Stewart, Anasi plays as an attack-minded wing back with the ability to move up the field as a midfielder. The two-time All-American also plays much larger than her 5'6" frame, providing value in the air. Out of the gate, Anasi will most likely serve as Durkin's last defender, but stay tuned: the Arlington, Texas native could quickly challenge both Stewart and D'Agostino as a go-to option.
2014 Projection: 4 appearances (0 starts), 70 minutes, 0 goals, 0 assists