The Breakers got off to a semi-rocky start this season. First a 4-1 kick in the shins from Portland. Then a 3-2 victory over the Dash off a Carli Lloyd own goal. Then a loss to the WNY Flash, who practically had to rebuild their roster from the ground up. Then another loss to Chicago.
And then—a close 1-0 home win over Portland. A tie with Sky Blue. A convincing 1-0 win over reigning league champions FCKC. For at least a little while, the Breakers are sitting at 3rd in the league table.
Much has been made of rookie Steph McCaffrey and midfielder Kristie Mewis in the attack, and rightly so, but the lynchpin to preserving some of those hard-fought, close-to-the-wire wins has been the Boston defense.
Durkin has created a box in the defensive third with midfielders Katie Schoepfer and Amy Barczuk sitting in front of Kassey Kallman and Julie King. For the last few games, they've been a fluid unit, shifting as necessary to cover, filling in the gaps and mucking up the lanes. This is a far cry from Boston defenses of old, like last year's struggle which led to a league-high goals against of 53 (for comparison, the next highest GA was 35).
Defender Kassey Kallman credits the gelling act to adjusting to each other. "I think just with every team, the more you play together the more you know each other's strengths and weaknesses. And just training a lot and getting those games under us, we learned a lot from the first few games and we learned what we had to do better."
Kallman was traded from FC Kansas City along with Morgan Marlborough in exchange for Heather O'Reilly. Sure, Boston could use more service from the right, which happens to be O'Reilly's bread and butter. But as the saying goes: defense wins championships, and Kallman's defense is looking to be championship caliber.
Kallman now wears a captain's armband for Boston, along with King and Schoepfer, both Breakers stalwarts. "I was very humbled that the team thought of me that way," said Kallman of being named a captain. "I think that's what's great about the team is we're a young team and everyone feels like they have a leadership role, not just the captains, but everyone. So I'm comfortable with the role." Kallman describes her leadership style as "lead by example."
"I'm kind of fiery on the field. I have a lot of intensity," she said.
You could see her intensity in Boston's game against her old team, FC Kansas City. Kallman made repeated runs up the middle, in the common parlance going "wild attacking center back." It wasn't planned, according to her. "That was the first game I've kind of done that this season. But I think we just had the transition and I would play the ball up to Steph [McCaffrey] and realize I was the closest player to her, so I would just continue my run knowing I have Amy and Shep to hold my spot for me. I know Julie makes that run too and I think it's hard to defend that and it throws teams off, so when the opportunity is there then we'll take it."
What gives both Kallman and King the freedom run is the security of that defensive box, of knowing that a recce into enemy territory won't leave base camp unguarded. That confidence in each other is generating confidence from the fans—the feeling that this is a team that can compete, that can take points off of anyone on any given day.
Perhaps it's too soon in the season to be getting so optimistic. After all, many key players will be returning to their NWSL clubs after the World Cup is over. But Boston fans deserve this feeling after last season. And if Kallman and Co. can keep it up, there's no reason to believe the feeling will go away any time soon.