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Boston Breakers take four in 2018 NWSL draft

Top pick Savannah McCaskill could be a big difference maker for Boston.

USA v Japan - Friendly match Women U23 Photo by Jose Breton/Nurphoto

The Boston Breakers drafted four players in the 2018 NWSL draft, filling in spots where they had a need from last season and filling in some needs for 2018 due to several players rehabbing injuries in the offseason.

With the second overall pick in the draft, the Breakers took South Carolina forward Savannah McCaskill. McCaskill is a nice, pacey forward and final-third playmaker who could help the Breakers find a much-needed scoring edge.

“She scores good goals. She scores simple goals,” said Breakers head coach Matt Beard after the first round of the draft. “Thought process was, games last year where we created good chances, never quite took ‘em or never crossed the line, I feel Savannah can bring that to the team.”

Beard says USWNT head coach and Jill Ellis and others spoke highly of McCaskill and when he reviewed footage of her from the college game, she ticked off a lot of the boxes they were looking for positionally, particularly as a winger who can cut in. McCaskill is currently in senior WNT camp, which Beard cited as a “massive benefit” that would give her the ability to hit the ground running, much like Rose Lavelle last season.

“Tight areas, back to goal, can turn plays, can beat players,” he said, describing her movement. “She can drop in, give it, get it in the box, someone that’s impressed me with especially her movement and her understanding of reading players,” he said.

The other pick the Breakers might have taken, Canadian Rebecca Quinn, went at #3 to the Washington Spirit. “Rebecca [Quinn] is someone we were considering because she’s a versatile player who can play center mid and obviously center back,” said Beard, “But I feel for the long term, the future of the club, to have a goalscorer like Savannah, I think will be a good addition to the team.”

In the second round, with the 17th pick overall, the Boston Breakers chose Georgetown center back Elizabeth Wenger. Wenger could offer Boston some stability in central defense after 2017 saw Megan Oyster with three different CB partners while injuries hit the Breakers’ defensive unit left and right. Beard also stated that Julie King, who had ankle surgery in November is out “probably the first month, maybe two of the season, potentially depending how she heals,” which might put some pressure on Wenger to take a steep learning curve in stride.

In the third round, with the 22nd overall pick, the Breakers chose Duke midfielder Ashton Miller. And in the fourth round, with their final and 32nd overall pick, the Breakers took UNC midfielder Joanna Boyles. Boyles leaves the Tar Heels with a career 14 goals and 17 assists and joins Miller in what would be a crowded midfield were it not for injuries carrying over into preseason/the start of the 2018 season.

“Rose Lavelle’s injured. Rosie White’s just had an operation she’s going to be out for three months,” said Beard, who referred reporters to US Soccer when asked for a timeline on Lavelle’s recovery. “Both are good players. Both can pass the ball. I like Joanna Boyles, she’s got great feet. Set play taker. She’s coming from an Anson Dorrance team, his teams are aggressive, so that was the thought process behind them.”

Beard also described Boyles as a player who offers flexibility in playing deep or higher and “someone who can create goals, pass the ball.”

As for the major question lingering in the air, Beard had no answers on whether the Breakers would operate in 2018 under new ownership. “Still don’t know,” he said. “Still waiting. It’d be nice for it to be resolved but we’re sitting tight and waiting.”

Earlier during the draft, NWSL’s managing director of operations Amanda Duffy said, “We’re currently actively working with the existing ownership in a business-as-usual capacity. That is, with the Boston Elite Soccer LLC as owners of the Boston Breakers.”

“We’re going to continue to work with [Boston] and their ownership to make sure that we remain a 10-team league and viable and moving forward in a professional and sophisticated way in 2018,” she said.

“It’s impacted our offseason massively,” said Beard of the ownership issue, “But it is what it is. We’ve just got to get on with it.”

Boston now has an even younger roster to get on with preparations for 2018. Beard didn’t make any hard and fast proclamations about his expectations for this roster, but he for certain will be looking for them to put in the work to get up to speed.

“It’s tough because we’ve got a young team,” said Beard, describing his sense of his roster and its progress now. “We drafted [six] last year, four this year. One thing we did do last year, we’ve put a lot of work into these young players and we’ll see the benefit from the [six] last year. So these players coming in, like I always say, coming from the college game to the pro game, it’s a massive massive difference. It’s like probably the Championship to the Premier League in England as an example.... So [the] players are going to need time to settle in and adjust. Ifeoma [Onumonu], towards the back end of last season started to make a great impact for us and that took a long time for that to happen. And ultimately this is what happens with these young players.”

NWSL opening weekend is March 24-25, while preseason camps begin February 19.

Boston Breakers 2018 college draft picks:
2. Savannah McCaskill (midfielder/forward, South Carolina)
17. Elizabeth Wenger (defender, Georgetown)
22. Ashton Miller (midfielder, Duke)
32. Joanna Boyles (midfielder, UNC)