A year after finishing just one spot out of the NWSL playoffs, the Breakers will return with a revamped roster - and a motivated first-year head coach. On Monday, the team unveiled its 2014 roster, leading us to ask five pertinent questions about the state of the Breakers.
Breakers 2014 Roster
Jami Kranich, Alyssa Naeher
Jazmyne Avant, Bianca D'Agostino, Courtney Jones, Julie King, Chelsea Stewart, Cat Whitehill
Maddy Evans, Ashley Grove, Kaylyn Kyle, Joanna Lohman, Kristie Mewis, Heather O'Reilly, Mollie Pathman, Lianne Sanderson
Lisa De Vanna, Nkem Ezurike, Jazmine Reeves, Katie Schoepfer
Five Pertinent Questions
1. Will Courtney Jones contribute as a defender?
The versatile forward/midfielder/defender played the latter role as a member of the 2012 Breakers, scoring two goals in 14 appearances. Leading up to the 2014 season, Jones made it clear that she preferred an attacking role, but would be willing to contribute anywhere on the field. It seems as though her "anywhere" promise will come true, as Durkin preferred Jones in the CB spot during pre-season play. The Palo Alto, Calif. native has the physicality and speed to stay goal-side on the league's quickest attackers, but her lack of experience causes room for concern. Will Jones join the Starting XI?
2. Who will emerge from the midfield crowd?
Four Breakers - Lohman, Kyle, Evans and Pathman - will contend for a starting role beside wide midfielders Heather O'Reilly and Kristie Mewis. Kyle seemed to represent the frontrunner, though a less-than-stellar pre-season campaign has opened up the competition. Lohman, a reliable starter in 2013, would add creativity to the middle of the field; Pathman, who may serve as a midfield/forward hybrid, displayed her goal-scoring prowess during an impressive pre-season run. Who will fill the final spots?
3. Will the Breakers add a third goalkeeper?
The decision to carry only Naeher and Kranich raises a significant question: who will backup Boston's backup? Naeher battled injuries for much of the 2014 season, never proving that she could stay fully healthy; Kranich, an unproven rookie, has never appeared in an NWSL match. When Naeher departs for international duty, the Breakers will not be able to dress a backup. Will the team add a third starter? The move sees imminent, but we're not so certain.
4. Who will join Lianne Sanderson up top?
The Breakers added attacking depth in the off-season, acquiring well-traveled forward De Vanna and rookies Ezurike and Reeves. Without Melissa Ortiz, the competition has thinned, though Durkin will have several options come April 13. Ezurike pairs an uncommon blend of sheer strength and lightning pace, and finishes as well as any NWSL rookie. We expect her to contend out of the gate - but will she overtake De Vanna as Durkin's number two?
5. Which rookies will earn their paycheck?
Durkin and co. made noise in January when they added several Starting XI hopefuls in the NWSL draft. Following the draft, Ezurike seemed to represent Boston's pro-ready pick, though former Duke star Mollie Pathman has risen to the occasion. Pathman now stands on the doorstep of a starting role and, if given an opportunity, may never look back. Who will serve as Boston's rookie of the year in 2014?