Boston Breakers fans are a pretty paranoid lot, which is not entirely unfair. As Oprah says, you teach people how to treat you, and the Breakers have taught fans that things can go intensely, catastrophically wrong. Now that the team is in the midst of a small losing streak, some fans are worrying that this is the return of Bad Boston, even though the season started with what looked like a new, Good Boston. The team is coming off of three losses in a row, all away games, preceded by two ties they could have won. And in all three losses, Boston went down by two goals very early and had to try to climb out of the hole.
“Of course we’re not happy,” said head coach Matt Beard after training on Tuesday. “We’ve tried to look at why it’s happening from a data perspective with the load in training, the traveling, trying to mix things up when we go away. What it boils down to unfortunately for us it’s been individual mistakes.”
The most recent bad result, a 3-1 loss against reigning league champions the North Carolina Courage, was the capper on a three-game stretch on the road, and it was the worst result by far. But Boston was also out key starting players Rose Lavelle and Allysha Chapman for that game. Both players were injured while with their national teams in the latest FIFA window.
“What people have to understand,” said Beard, “Is when you lose players like Rose Lavelle, Allysha Chapman, when we’re a relatively new team and we’re starting to find a little bit of rhythm and build some good relationships, then you get hurt, then you got to start building new relationships and that’s going to take time.”
“New relationships” means digging into his bench, giving starting roles to players like Brooke Elby and Morgan Andrews. Beard was very up on both players, but emphasized he was not putting special pressure on them, especially rookie Andrews, to carry games. He was also very positive on backup goalkeeper Sammy Jo Prudhomme, especially now that starting GK Abby Smith is out after having a platelet rich plasma injection in her right knee, which she injured last year.
“Sammy Jo’s been fantastic,” said Beard. “She’s been patient. I’m actually excited to see her on the pitch because she’s really impressed me this year.”
But personnel changes can only do so much; as Beard said, teams need rhythm, and the Breakers can’t seem to find theirs without great effort, and not for the length of an entire game. “It’s now going to be more of a mental thing about maybe tactically changing one or two things especially at the start of the game and then growing into it,” he said. “With every defeat there’s a learning curve. I’m still confident we can have a good season and we can push on, especially once we get everyone back fit.”
In fact his mantra during the interview was resoundingly British, echoing Douglas Adams’ universal motto: Don’t panic. “We’re not going to panic just because we’ve lost three games,” he said several times. “One thing I can say is that we’ve not given up in the games. We’ve kept going. And if I take you back to the team I had last year, probably would have ended up a 7-1 result like we had in [Western New York]. So we can draw on the positives from the display in the second half [against North Carolina] a little bit but we know what we need to do better.”
Team captain and Breakers veteran Julie King was similarly resolute. “Yes we have given up some goals and given up some losses,” she said after training, “But keeping that mental balance and knowing that there’s still a lot of points left on the board, we can’t give up just yet. We just gotta shore things up and keep our confidence and trust in each other.”
She’s been helping the team stay together mentally, though not necessarily through her specific experiences with the Breakers when they went through tougher times. These are all players who have been dealing with the game for most of their lives, which includes losing streaks. “Everyone’s a competitor and everyone wants to win,” she said, “So finding that within each other and helping to pull that out of each other, because you do need help in these kind of losing times in the season. It is contagious, it’s easier to be negative and to lose games than it is to win and be positive. It’s just the nature of life.”
Still, King said she understood how Boston fans might be sinking into last year’s mindset. “I totally relate to that,” she said. “I think anybody who’s been involved with the organization relates to that. It’s like you have that bad taste in your mouth from seasons past.”
But her advice for fans is to try and see the big picture. “Just take a step back and understand that this is a whole different team,” she said. “Every season’s going to be different regardless of different players and all the different factors. If you look at this team versus last year’s team, you can’t even really compare the two. It’s completely changed. The only thing that’s stayed the same is that we’re the Boston Breakers.”
She started to pick up steam as she continued her message to worried Breakers fans. “This team is very capable of winning games and changing the culture and bringing this organization back to being a winning organization. I would say don’t lose hope. There’s still a lot of points left on the table. Really the same stuff that I say to the girls: stay confident, trust each other. We got your back. Keep having our backs, and we appreciate the fans. I mean our fans are the best in the league. I fully believe that. Portland might have more people out there but the things, the ups and downs that our Breakers fans have stuck with us through, they’re tough. So hang tough and we’ll hang tough too and we’re gonna get back on track.”
The Breakers return home to Jordan Field this Saturday, June 24, at 4 PM ET.