The Boston Breakers finished their preseason last week with an 8-0 win over Boston College. After the game, head coach Matt Beard discussed the team's progress through preseason and what fans can expect as NWSL season 4 begins.
The Bent Musket: Congratulations coach on the 8-0 win. How do you feel?
Matt Beard: Yeah, no. We're getting there. I just said to the players, I said, we can start to see players are starting to read each other now which is really important. Especially going forward you know, we've been creating chances in the games that we've played but we've not been quite getting on the end of it, but there's a couple of things that I'm pleased with today. Our fitness levels look good. We're starting to get on the end of some of the passes, defense-splitting passes we weren't getting on the end of previously, and that was just down to the fitness levels. But we're getting there. It's gonna take time; I said to the players it'll take us probably til mid-May for us to be in a position where we've gelled and we're comfortable in what we're trying to do and the way we're trying to play. For the most of it, it was a good exercise for us.
TBM: You see some noticeable improvement over Florida?
MB: Listen, we played well in Florida. People who didn't get to see the games, I mean - we completely dominated the game against FSU. We changed the team in the last period. And we switched off for the goal which we conceded, but preseason isn't about winning football matches. Preseason's about getting the players fit and getting them to understand what I'm asking them to do. I'm asking them to play a completely different way from what they've been used to. I'm asking them to do things differently what they've been defensively, what they've been used to doing. And I can think as, as each period that we've played in preseason and here and the opportunity to work with them and talk to them, you know I can see the improvement, and as a coach that's all you can ask for. If they're learning from what you're asking them to do and they're putting right their wrongs, then you know, there's nothing more I can ask for.
TBM: So how are your rookies that you drafted coming along? That's Christen Westphal, Brittany Ratcliffe, and Abby Smith?
MB: You know I'm really pleased. I like Brittany. She's a traditional sort of out-and-out winger. You just see there, she'll commit a defender and knock it past her. That's going to be an asset for us this year, especially from the bench if we need to change the game up a little bit. Christen's so comfortable on the ball. Again you see today in tight areas she can drop a shoulder and beat a player. She's got a good passing range. And you know obviously Abby's only participated in sort of ten days of preseason cause she was sort of had a bit of a stress fracture before she come back in, so now all three of them have done well and they've settled into the group. But more importantly they've grown in confidence as preseason's gone and I think for me, that's probably the biggest learning curve for me learning with these players coming in. I should've sat down with them day one and just got them to relax. But you know, I can learn from that this year and make sure that I do that for next year.
TBM: Coming to more senior players, you feel you're prepared to lose probably Kyah Simon and Whitney Engen for the Olympics?
MB: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it is what it is, innit. I mean, there's a lot of other teams that are losing a lot more players so you know, you look at Allie Long, she had a great performance against Colombia the other night, so she's gotta be knocking on the door. Obviously that's going to be another player that Portland will lose. But we've prepared for that. People saying about the draft, why did I go for Westphal, that's exactly the reason why. We're preparing for the Olympics - not only that, we're looking long term strategically as well. My opinion, you watch her, how comfortable she is on the ball, she can play anywhere in the back line. I'm sure as she gets older and as she progresses as a player she'll end up in the national team.
TBM: You're calling that now.
MB: Who, Christen? She's a great player. As long as she keeps grounded, she's got all the attributes to become a world-class player.
TBM: Moving towards the coaching side of things, which team are you looking forward to playing most so far?
MB: Do you know what? This is going to sound really corny or cheesy, but I'm just looking forward to all the games because you look at all the squads, there's quality in every single squad. And I spoke to Kieran the other day, we done that WosoZone [podcast], they're predicting that we'll be in and around where we were last year and you know, I'm pleased with the group that we've got. We've got a good blend of youth, experience. I'm confident that we can have a good year but the key message for the players, for the fans, is that we just all need to be patient initially. You got to let us bed in, you got to let me bed in, you got to let the players bed in. I think that the way that we're trying to play, we'll cause teams problems and we've got some real creative players. Look at some of the goals that we've scored today. Whether it's against a college team, whether it's against a pro team, I think you'll find the chances that we're creating and the players we've got to finishing, we can definitely score goals this year.
TBM: Seattle had their kit reveal last night. Laura Harvey dropped some banter on Tom Sermanni. She said, yeah they're all right about Orlando. So do you have any top class banter for Laura Harvey?
MB: [laughing] Harvs is Harvs isn't she. She's a good girl. They're a good team, aren't they. Let's be honest, watching them in preseason games. No, I've always kept in touch with her even when she was out here the first couple of years. I watched how tough that first year was for her so if anything I'll probably learn off of her first year for me, for this year.
The Boston Breakers play their first game away against the Washington Spirit on Saturday, April 16 at 7 PM ET.