The Boston Breakers had a mostly productive draft day. They had a wild first round, taking four players, then a big lull in the second and third rounds after a trade with Chicago in the second round gave up their #11 pick for a 2018 draft pick and a 2018 international roster spot. Then the Breakers were back in action in the fourth round with two more picks.
In order, the Breakers’ six picks were:
1. Rose Lavelle (midfielder, Wisconsin)
3. Morgan Andrews (midfielder, USC)
8. Ifeoma Onumonu (forward, UC Berkeley)
9. Midge Purce (midfielder, Harvard)
31. Sammy Jo Prudhomme (goalkeeper, USC)
38. Hayley Dowd (forward, Boston College)
Noticeably missing from these draft picks are defenders. Beard did not seem unduly bothered by it. “I feel that we needed to address the top end of the pitch and the midfield, and I think we’ve done that today,” he said.
“Defense is fine. We’ve got seven defenders.... We’ve got enough players there. The midfield was a key area that we needed to bolster. And the other thing, we’ve got to be conscious that we lose Amanda [DaCosta] and we lose Emilie Haavi to the European championships.”
The non-goalkeeer picks, then, are part of a rebuilding plan that Beard phrased laughingly as “We’re gonna score one more than anyone else.”
But with a strong midfield that can hold the ball and a high-flying attack that can put balls on frame, that may be more accurate than a simple joke. Beard was obviously up on his players. He described Onumonu as “an exciting talent.”
“She’s quick, she’s strong, she can score goals, she can create goals,” he said of Onumonu. “I’ve never seen a female attacker head the ball like she heads the ball.... The good thing with her is if you think of last, year, I didn’t really have the ability to bring someone that powerful, that quick, that strong off the bench to impact games when we needed a goal, and that’s something that she can definitely do, but I also think that she can definitely get in the starting XI.”
For Lavelle, Beard included her under his wish to bring in more creativity. “I believe that she can become a goalscoring midfield player, get that something that we lacked last year,” he said. “We lacked that box-to-box player. We lacked that midfield player that could beat someone and break a line. Everything that I’ve watched of her - I mean I’ve seen comparisons with Carli Lloyd in some of the things I’ve seen with her, the way that she can just drop her shoulder and beat someone.”
Purce was someone he’d seen play at Harvard, and in fact she managed to get Harvard’s only goal on Boston in a 2016 scrimmage. ““What I like about her is she’s very direct,” he said. “She can beat players. She scores goals. She can score goals from set plays as well.... I felt that day [at the scrimmage[, especially that first 30 minute period, she caused us a lot of problems.... From my perspective that was the start of me looking at her then just following her progress.”
Prudhomme would be Boston’s third goalkeeper, behind Libby Stout and Abby Smith, who should ready to go in preseason after rehabbing a torn patellar tendon and strained ACL. “Sammy’s someone that impressed me, watching her especially in the pressure games, the [NCAA] semifinal and the final,” he said. “I thought she showed great leadership quality... Now it puts pressure on both Abby and Libby.”
“We’ve worked so hard in this offseason to completely turn this team around,” Beard said. “And I feel we’re in a really good place... We’ve got players that can play out from the back. We’ve got players that can play through midfield that can beat players with the ball at their feet. We’ve got goalscorers. We’ve got quick players.”
They also have a lot of players total, with six picks and two more signings to announce next week. Former Breakers GM and current President of Soccer Operations and Development Lee Billiard credited the Breakers’ strong reserve system for the freedom to draft so many. “We set up a soccer pyramid for a specific reason, and that’s to be able to bring players in the Breakers environment,” he said. “There’s plenty of players in this country - I mean look at the kids that probably didn’t get drafted here as well. There are some players that are still good enough. And the rosters right now are only 20 in the NWSL, so for us to have a program with the reserves for those people that might need a little bit more time in the professional environment...then we can develop them in our environment.”
One player who might be making room on the roster is team captain and center back Whitney Engen. “The conversations that we’ve had is that she’s still undecided,” said Beard. “I know for a fact she’s not going to retire, but there is a potential that she won’t return. I’m sure that will be probably solved within the next fortnight, from Whitney and us speaking.... I know obviously getting cut from the national team hurt her. She’s dedicated her life to the national team.”
But Beard seems to have taken that into account with his seven defenders and didn’t feel a need to look to the draft to replace her. He reflected on all his picks and the unifying trait between them, which was character.
“Sometimes that’s more important than the football, or the footballer,” he said. “You win things by having a group that’s together, and by having good people. Every player that we’ve drafted and everyone that we’ve brought in so far, they’re really good people.”
“One thing that I want to put on record and make clear is that, the transition from the college game to the pro game’s completely different. We work really hard to get these four picks on board so we could give ourselves the strength and depth that we need as a team, create competition for places. So they’re under no pressure to come in and perform straight away. It’s going to be a transitional process for them...”
The picks Beard made were not just about fixing last season. He wants to put a good young draft class into place to develop over time and create a solid team beyond 2017. “It isn’t just about next season,” he said. “It’s a long term thing that we’ve done with this draft for this year.”