Earlier today, The Bent Musket discussed whether Boston Breakers head coach Matt Beard would be staying with the team in 2018 as its head coach. Thanks to social media, we now know the answer a couple of hours later from former GM and current President of Soccer Ops and Development Lee Billiard.
The Boston Breakers are currently ninth in the league with a 4-12-7 record; in 2016 they were last in the league with a 3-15-2 record. But the argument for keeping Beard requires a lot more context than the bald W-L-T figures or standings, like last year’s -33 goal differential over 20 games and this year’s current -10 GD over 23 games.
There’s also the injuries, which started in preseason with Emilie Haavi breaking her jaw and then never really settling with the team, prompting her early return to Norway. There’s Rose Lavelle’s hamstring injury from a USWNT friendly in Norway. And in the defense there’s Christen Westphal’s right foot nerve damage, Julie King starting the season sub-100% and being managed in and out of the back four, Brooke Elby’s left ankle surgery, Allysha Chapman’s groin strain. AND and, it’s not an injury, but Morgan Andrews basically had to cut her season short in order to finish her degree at USC.
But despite the defensive musical chairs that plagued the back half of the season, there was a definite difference between this season and last. Last season, Beard was a newcomer to the league and basically had to glue together a roster that was half inherited and half his, not to mention the amount of mental and emotional work to get the team really functioning on the pitch. This season he was able to truly pick his own roster, and the team has certainly shown patches of the fluid attacking style he wants from them. So perhaps it’s not so unreasonable, despite two seasons at the bottom of the standings, to give Beard a third year. He’ll have the benefit of 2018 being another non-tournament year, so he won’t totally have to give up his NT players to the whims of their federations (FIFA dates notwithstanding), and he’ll also have a core group as a foundation, allowing for some continuity between seasons.
Of course, barring misfortune outside of Beard’s control, year three will really be the crucible then. The ownership and the fans will certainly be expecting better than ninth, although perhaps asking for a playoff position is still too much during this rebuild. But there is some logic to this decision, and if the team can finish out the season strong with a final home win, maybe that positive upswing can be extra motivation through the long offseason.