The Boston Breakers are deep in the middle of their 2017 NWSL preseason preparations. They’ve already played two games so far, a 5-1 victory over Boston College and another 5-1 victory over NEFC U15 boys. Still, the reactions from Beard on social media were fairly different between the two games, with subdued reflection after BC and a more upbeat tone after the second. Beard spoke about it after practice on Thursday.
“Obviously the first one was our first one together so it was always going to be trying to find that balance in the game,” he said. “When I watched it back it wasn’t as frustrating as what it was live and I always try to keep my emotions intact, especially post game, because having the opportunity to watch it back, you can see certain things we were trying to do. And it’s just maybe one forward movement either too slow or too soon, but watching it back it was okay.... By the second game everything just sort of, didn’t fall into place, but obviously we’ve had a game under our belt, we’ve looked at some defending clips, some attacking clips, and we’re pointing it out what we need to do, when it has to happen.”
The back four that Beard fielded in those games was partly out of necessity, though. He stuck mostly with Christen Westphal, Megan Oyster, Kylie Strom, and Brooke Elby and was complimentary especially of Oyster, whom he called “brilliant.” But he also said that Amanda Frisbie and Julie King are both currently out with injury, which could lead to some changes once the season in full swing and both of them are back at 100%.
As for rookies, Boston has plenty of them. “They’ve been brilliant,” said Beard. “Sammy [Jo Prudhomme]’s a character. She’s come and she’s done really well. I’ve been really pleased with Midge [Purce] and Iffy [Onumonu]. Two different players, but Iffy’s impacting the two games that we’ve had was the reason we wanted to bring her. She’s direct, she opens up, she gets across defenders. She scored two goals, she’s got two assists. Midge is a slightly different player. She’s very very gifted. I mean the girl can cover some ground, she’s so quick. And she’s versatile so that gives me some very very good options on that side of things. And Rose is Rose.”
Beard spoke, of course, of Rose Lavelle, the #1 NWSL draft pick and most recent USWNT debut to cause some serious buzz. “Obviously proved her worth in the national team didn’t she, let’s be honest, in that game against England,” said Beard. “She got a knock in the game against Boston College so we didn’t risk her with the national team camp coming up.”
Still, Beard was careful to note that he’s not putting the world on young Lavelle’s shoulders just yet. “Look, she’s still young, she’s still got a lot to learn. She’s certainly, she’s a great character. She’s a very funny girl and I think you can probably see that in her performances because she plays with a smile on her face. So from that side that there’s no pressure on Rose Lavelle. We’ve got some good players, and experienced players as well. We’ve got Rosie White who’s doing well. We’ve got obviously Morgan Andrews, Angela Salem, Amanda DaCosta. So we’ve got a lot of competition in that midfield place and no one’s guaranteed to play, but I think for Rose, she’s got a great future in the game.”
With Beard up on his new roster choices, is he optimistic for the 2017 season? In an interview with TBM after a disappointing 2016, Beard reflected at the time that during preseason, perhaps, “I shouldn’t have even mentioned the world playoffs.” He was more circumspect, six months on.
“Were not going to set ourselves any targets,” he said. “Just going to take it day by day. What we’ve said to the players from day one is we just expect them to turn up every day and work as hard as they can for each other, for their teammate. And then we focus on tomorrow’s training session and then the game on Saturday and do it day by day. We can’t affect what goes on in the future. We can affect what we’re doing now and that’s obviously what we’re looking at doing and making sure that we’re prepared for each game as best we can, on the pitch and off the pitch.”
That doesn’t mean Beard didn’t have words of encouragement for Boston’s faithful. “Look, we’re ambitious,” he said. “I’ve said it day one, I haven’t left what I’ve left in England to come here and just make numbers up.... We’re going to set up to win every game. We’re going to have a go. There’s going to be ups and downs as we go throughout the season. I think we’ve got a lot of goals in this team definitely, watching them. The front three players coming off the bench and what we’ve got from midfield, there’s definitely going to be a lot of goals in this team. So it’s going to be an exciting season. Just to stick with us through the good and the bad times. But I’m confident there’ll be more wins than losses this year.”