The Boston Breakers open their 2017 campaign away at FC Kansas City. These are both teams who have gone through some rebuilding, though Boston’s has been deeper and wider-ranging than KC’s. Boston is entering 2017 with a completely revamped roster, a little more bench depth, and at least one truly next-level talent in Rose Lavelle.
Does that mean they should hope for a win against FCKC, a team that has much more continuity in their roster and a coach with a proven record? Anything can happen, and in fact Boston’s first home and away wins in 2016 came against Kansas City.
But KC has two important factors to consider: the returns of Sydney Leroux and Amy Rodriguez, both of whom return after having children. They’ll immediately put the Breakers’ new defense to the test and Megan Oyster and Kylie Strom will have to stay connected and organized if they want to protect their keeper. They’ll have veteran defender Allysha Chapman with them, though, and if Julie King is 100% healthy then she’ll be running hard on the right. Christen Westphal is also someone Beard seems to rate, but she’s another defender that seems to be carrying over a nagging injury from preseason.
However, KC does have some key players on the injury list. Mandy Laddish and Alex Arlitt are both out, while midfield destroyer Desiree Scott is doubtful with a left ankle sprain. That takes a little bit of the steel out of KC’s spine, but Boston will still have to deal with hard-nosed Becca Moros on the right flank.
On Boston’s side, they’re without GK Libby Stout, forward Emilie Haavi, and defender Amanda Frisbie. But most eyes will be on Rose Lavelle, making her professional debut for Boston. Beard has said he thinks she’s good in that central channel, so perhaps she’ll end up paired with Rosie White, who has also featured for Boston as their central string-puller all through preseason. With Angela Salem backing them up, there are a couple of other midfield options Beard could use to fill out the rest of the XI. If Tiffany Weimer ends up on that left side, it could be pretty fun seeing a Weimer - Moros league veteran matchup. But there’s also Amanda DaCosta who’s been working with Salem in preseason, which might by necessity push Lavelle to the right (or even the left, with her left-footed shot and ability to play there in a pinch, but don’t count on this). There’s also Morgan Andrews who can sit deep behind the attacking mids, with Beard valuing her passing range.
And for forwards, Dowie will undoubtedly be Boston’s centerpiece, but there are multiple players Beard can arrange around her depending on formation. She can work in a 4-2-3-1 as lone striker or a 4-3-3 coordinating with her front line, which is where someone like Ifeoma Onumonu or Adriana Leon might come in on the right. Or even a 4-4-2 with a strike partner. Dowie’s versatility in being able to be that person running onto a long ball or holding up play and setting up a partner makes her an incredibly important piece for Boston; fans could see that when she joined the team late last season and immediately made an impact in a season that needed some impact.
There’s a certain amount of pressure riding on Dowie and Lavelle’s shoulders here because Boston needs a good start. They’re still brushing away the detritus of last season and a win would obviously set an important tone. Boston knows they can win, but the lesson needs to be reinforced, and the promise of a new roster needs to pay off, or else they could they could take much longer to grow into their season than they would have with a win from the jump.
So: don’t give either Leroux or Rodriguez chances to shoot, control the midfield, and by extension give Dowie plenty of opportunities. “I feel obviously they’re an established side, a good side,” said head coach Matt Beard at Breakers media day. “It’s going to be a good test for us day one, but we’re in a really positive frame of mind as a group, and we’re really looking forward to that test.”
Boston Breakers vs FC Kansas City kicks off at 6 PM ET on Sunday, April 16. The game will livestream on go90’s mobile-only platform. Check this post for technical details.