Last week, the news dropped a scant hour before the kickoff of the USWNT’s Olympic farewell game against Costa Rica that the Boston Breakers had traded Stephanie McCaffrey to the Chicago Red Stars for an international roster spot and four 2017 college draft picks.
Afterwards, McCaffrey gave an interview to Equalizer Soccer calling it “mutual” and part of her need to get out of her comfort zone and, perhaps, a little farther away from home. McCaffrey played her college ball for the Eagles at Boston College and was acquired by the Breakers in the 2015 college draft.
In an interview by phone, Breakers head coach Matt Beard agreed. “Steph, for me, she’s been a great character, she’s been a great player. I feel with her, I think she put herself under too much pressure being from Boston and being in her hometown club and I’m sure in the future she’s gonna come back.”
“I think people misinterpreted what I said to you the other day,” he said, referring to his original interview on the trade.
“We’ve got a long term plan, a long term project, with this club,” Beard continued. “For me personally, I know what we need to do to be successful on the pitch and we’re making great strides right now off the pitch as an organization to improve the organization, to improve the setup for the players.”
As for the trade itself, Beard was positive about what Boston received in return for McCaffrey. “The trade itself represents good value for us,” he said, “Because we’ve got picks we can potentially trade other clubs for other players. So you’ve got a lot of depth within the draft, and that’s something, now that I’m in the country, I’m able to get a full season of college stuff.”
Still, Beard was aware that he had just traded away a fan favorite. “Obviously I saw people upset; of course they’re gonna be upset because she’s from Boston, she’s a hometown girl,” he said. “And I get all that. We didn’t want Stephanie to go. We want her to be a success at the club, and I’m confident she would have been if she stayed at the club, but I just feel she put herself under a lot of pressure... Me and Steph are on great terms, we finished on good terms. We’re gonna meet up when she’s back for the break in August, so from that side of things everything was done very amicably and done in the right way.”
With McCaffrey gone, there are two new attacking players Beard is looking to integrate into his squad with the arrival of English forward Natasha Dowie and French midfielder Ghoutia Karchouni. Dowie’s arrival wasn’t meant to be as a replacement, though. “We had no plans to move Stephanie,” said Beard. “Natasha, we was looking at for 2017. But of course she’d mutually agreed to terminate her contract with her club in England, and from that side of things, what we didn’t want to happen was another club signing her. So with Mollie [Pathman] retiring we had the roster room to do it.”
Still, Beard thinks Dowie’s early arrival could be what the club is looking for. “Another thing is goalscoring’s been an issue for us this year, let’s be honest,” he said. “Knowing the chances that we’ve created this year, given the opportunities I think that we’ve had this year, Natasha would, nine times out of 10, she’ll be at least working the goalkeeper or scoring for us.”
Dowie will go into the new attack with Karchouni, which may require some shifting around for Eunice Beckmann. “We’ve got options whether I go back to the 3-5-2, because I’ve got two good number 9’s or two good center forwards in Natasha and Eunice, so that gives me threats,” Beard said. “Ghoutia is...gonna need time to settle in. She’s been in this week.... The break for me has come at a good time to enable me to get Natasha and Ghoutia sort of on par with what we’re doing.”
Karchouni may or may not play this weekend against the Orlando Pride, though she’s been in-country longer than Dowie, who is scheduled to arrive today (Wednesday). “Depending on certain things both will be in the matchday squad,” said Beard. “With Tasha potentially, she might be involved but I don’t know. I’ve got to be mindful that she would have been in the country three days.”
Beard is also looking forward to when he has his full complement back after the Olympics, both offense and defense. “Once the Olympics are over I’m excited to see Beckmann, Dowie, Simon, as an attacking force,”he said. “And we’ve got [Christen] Westphal and we’ve got [Brooke] Elby that can cover in at fullback. Once Whitney [Engen]’s back I’ve got [Julie] King that can do that job.”
So: difficult trade in the books and new players arriving. What next, as the season enters its latter stages? Beard was decidedly optimistic.
“I just want to put on record, I’m really excited by the future of Boston Breakers,” he said, “And I’m really grateful for the support we’ve had from the fans because we’re going into a game this weekend with a poor record and we’ve sold out already....
“You want a positive end to this season...we can take that positivity into next year. And that’s the big thing for me I want to make sure to be doing. And the fans can go away at the end of this season in a positive frame of mind looking forward to the season after, where we can add some quality to the group, whether that’s through the draft or whether it’s through trades and stuff like that. We’re working hard to make sure we’re doing the right thing.”