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Boston Breakers 2017 season preview

Here’s what you need to know about the team heading into a new season.

Stephanie Yang

The Boston Breakers have a reputation, and it’s not a great one. Fans of the beleaguered team saw them drop to the bottom of the table under the hamfisted guidance of head coach Tom Durkin, and then struggle with their identity all through the 2016 season under new head coach Matt Beard. But Beard was starting to turn the ship when the season ended; the potential was there, kickstarted by the arrival of English forward Natasha Dowie.

Beard completely revamped the team in the offseason. The 2016 Breakers were a sort of hodgepodge of old roster and new, with Beard trying to fuse the two into something functional. 2017 saw some savage roster cuts, trades, and six draft picks, five of whom Beard ended up signing. Expectations aren’t exactly riding high here, but Beard and the fans know that last place is not an option again.

2016 Record: 3-2-15

2016 Playoffs: Nope

Key additions: Rose Lavelle, Rosie White

Both midfielders are going to be key at helping Boston control the ball and the tempo of the game.

Key losses: Whitney Engen

Engen was the glue in the back line and with both her and Kassey Kallman gone, the formation will have to adjust to a new CB pairing. Fortunately, the team acquired Spirit standout Megan Oyster, who will hopefully be able to step into Engen’s shoes.

Projected starting XI (formation):

Projected starting XI

Major trophies won all-time: WUSA 2003 shield

What we think of our team: Boston does its best, even when it gets kicked repeatedly while it’s down. Nobody gets to make fun of our struggling team but us.

What outsiders think of our team: Looking at the team from afar, the Breakers will not be a playoff contender, but I'm going to go out and say they're going to cause a ruckus late into the season and thwart another team's quest for one of the four coveted playoff spots. They do that and I think come 2018 they could be something of a dark horse pick for a playoff spot.

Boston’s Biggest Rival: At this point it’s probably the North Carolina Courage, formerly the WNY Flash. The Flash took Boston to school repeatedly in 2016 with 4-0, 7-1, and 4-0 losses. Beard called that 7-1 loss “probably the lowest point in my football career.” So a newly revamped Breakers will be looking, if not for revenge, at least a recovery of dignity against the Courage, especially after they won the 2016 championship as the Flash.

Best social media follow: The Breakers have a lot of options here. Be sure to ask Canadian defender Allysha Chapman her opinions on jorts.

Our season hinges on: Consistency and lack of injury. Beard has assembled a pretty competitive starting XI, but the depth on his bench isn’t all that great. That’s not to say any one injury in particular will sink the team; that was 2016, when losing one midfield player could turn the whole roster on its head. But there are a few key players like Lavelle and Dowie who really need to be consistently involved without any nagging injuries for the team to push past “doing okay” to actually winning.

Why this year won’t be like last year: The Breakers roster revamp was pretty comprehensive. They have a lot more options in the attack now as opposed to 2016 when they basically had one configuration that had to work or else. Lavelle is obviously a big factor, but fellow rookies Midge Purce and Ifeoma Onumonu allow for some swapping out in a front two or front three, while Beard has praised Morgan Andrews’ passing range, allowing her to fit into a midfield that already has Amanda DaCosta working with Angela Salem.

Key player: Rose Lavelle. This may be the obvious answer but it’s obvious for a reason. Anyone who saw Lavelle play for the USWNT during SheBelieves and against Russia will know that she has skills on skills and can yank the strings just as much as she drives to goal herself.

Predicted finish in 2017 (place in standings): If everyone stays healthy, 6th. If injuries strike, 8th.

Wild prediction: The Breakers will actually skate pretty close to making playoffs, so close that everyone will go “What is happening?”