Courtney Jones is back in Boston.
After scoring two goals and contributing six assists as a member of the 2012 Boston Breakers, Jones rejoined the organization - which now plays in the professional NWSL - when the Breakers completed a mid-October trade, sending a 2014 first-round draft pick to FC Kansas City. The Palo Alto, Calif. native feels as though she's coming home.
"Boston was always on the back of my mind," Jones said, commenting on her mindset following the 2013 season. "I am more than excited to be back. I love this town and I love this city; I love everything about it."
Although Jones hoped to stay in Boston when the Breakers transitioned from the semi-pro WPSL Elite to the fully-professional NWSL, the forward/defender traveled to Missouri, joining FC Kansas City as the sixth overall selection in the 2013 NWSL Supplemental Draft. Jones proceeded to score four goals and contribute one assist for FCKC, using less-than-desirable minutes to make an attacking impact. Her fondness for Kansas City met its match when the Breakers acquired Jones last month.
"Kansas City was great - we had a lot of great players there - but I didn't get quite as much playing time as I hoped," she continued. "After speaking to my coaches, we decided it may be a good fit for me to go back [to Boston]. I was more than thrilled."
Though the return "home" serves as something of a dream realized, Jones recognizes the challenges of joining a team in transition.
"Going onto a brand new team - especially with a brand new coach - everyone is going to have to prove themselves," Jones said. "My mindset is focused on training right now; pre-season is going to be a huge time for me."
Upon arriving on the east coast, the UNC alum will join fellow Tar Heels Cat Whitehill and Heather O'Reilly, who built notable legacies during their college careers. Without prompting, Jones jumped on the opportunity to praise Whitehill's character.
"[Whitehill] takes such an amazing leadership role on this team, and I completely look up to her," Jones said. "I've played with her throughout so many years; she's going to be great as a player coach."
Whitehill, Boston's stalwart center back and newly-named assistant coach, will work with Head Coach Tom Durkin to develop a formal role for Jones. The lifetime forward served as a true defender for Lisa Cole's Breakers, making the challenging shift from striker to outside back. Upon joining FC Kansas City, Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski pushed Jones back into a natural attacking role, playing into Jones' native skill set.
"I'm going in with an open mind, though I definitely see myself as more of an attacking player on the wing," Jones added. "But at this point in my career, I just want to be on the field; if they see me as an outside back, I'll do it to the best of my ability."
An October injury to Kyah Simon may have opened the door for Jones to contribute in this much-desired role, though Jones quickly noted that she would much rather play beside Simon, who tore her ACL late last month. Jones figures to serve as Tom Durkin's third forward behind U.S. International Sydney Leroux and England-native Lianne Sanderson.
When Jones arrives in Boston this spring, she will provide a rare blend of physicality and speed, mixing the strong play of Kaylyn Kyle with the breakaway ability of Leroux. Breakers' GM Lee Billiard spoke highly of these attributes, praising Jones' "athleticism, quality and strong competitive attitude." Jones received the compliment with humility.
"I have to give credit to my father," she began, "who played in the NFL for 12 years. I get every ounce of competitiveness from him - and my mom, too. I just grew up competing...everything was a competition.
"I'm definitely a type of powerful player who loves to run and catch the ball, and beat people down the line," she continued. "That's the sort of player I was all throughout college...and my competitiveness has stayed true."
Although the Calif. native travels with West-Coast roots, she describes Boston as a second home, a place filled with comfort and familiarity. And while an attacking role may best suit the third-year forward, the opportunity to return to the East Coast - and relive an impactful 2012 season - brings great enthusiasm.
"I'm not sure what my future holds," Jones concluded, "but I'm hoping to stay in Boston for the rest of my career."
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