As the Boston Breakers enter preseason, Coach Tom Durkin took the time to answer some questions via e-mail. He addressed some of his plans for guiding the Breakers through a season that will be interrupted by the 2015 World Cup and talked about several players, including his thoughts on Kristie Mewis eventually rejoining the United States Women's National Team.
Do you expect Alyssa Naeher to be gone during the World Cup? If so, Kranich hasn't gotten any minutes. Has she developed chemistry with the back line through practice?
We expect Alyssa to be at the World Cup and are taking the steps to get Jami equal playing time in preseason matches and in some cases a bit more than that. We have no reservations about Jami, and Alyssa will be a great mentor for her. My greater concern is who will play backup to Jami when Alyssa is gone with the U.S. team.
How do you plan to transition the team through pre-World Cup, during World Cup, and post-World Cup?
We will not face some of the issues that many other NWSL clubs encounter with "transition" pre- and post-World Cup as the majority of our roster remains in place. We have already moved forward since Brazil's decision to go with a permanent National team through the Olympics in 2016. We will certainly miss Alyssa Naeher, but we will manage.
You've been through a couple of practices now. Are you finding any inherent conflicts in style between the Brazilian internationals and the American players?
None whatsoever. They have elevated the speed of play. The underlying concern is how they adjust to the physicality and power of soccer here in the states. We tend to play a faster pace and press more often so there are some time and space adjustments, but the girls are clever.
Right or wrong, Brazilian players have come to have a reputation for embellishing or going down too easily. Have you discussed this with the Brazilian players?
That is mainly an issue on the men's side and in the domestic league. I don't see it as an issue with any of our acquisitions. They seem genuinely honest and willing to get on with it. They have been a pleasure to work with and are very happy to be in Boston and the NWSL.
Are you counting on Kristie Mewis and Stephanie McCaffrey to have some pre-existing chemistry from playing for Boston College?
Kristie has been the stand out of pre-season thus far and head and shoulders above where she finished last year. I believe she is working to fulfill the potential that everyone saw on her as young player. I know it may seem late in the game, but from what I have seen so far, I wouldn't count her out of the World Cup squad just yet. The season in Japan has helped her regain her confidence, and I believe Jill Ellis has been clear on what Kristie needs to do get back to international soccer, and Kristie has responded like a champion.
Stephanie and Kristie are good for each other's psyche and it is a luxury for the Breakers to be able to tap into local talent. Having the likes of programs like BC and others in your backyard is a tremendous benefit. Stephanie has similar aspirations to Kristie and she is ready to play big role in her first season. Of course their chemistry is nice but it's the ambition they both have that is contagious.
Stephanie Verdoia was recently with the U23s in La Manga. What's your evaluation of her and how do you see her fitting in to the attack this season?
Stephanie Verdoia knows how to play and she is already technically good enough for this level. Her biggest adjustment will be the pace and physical nature of playing against older players. It's an adjustment that she understands and it will be interesting to see how she comes to terms. She is a quality kid and definitely a player for the future.
There's been a recent trend of early retirements from NWSL. What do you think teams and the league can do to help limit this?
At this point in time, the focus is sustainability and a slow and steady growth. Look at the MLS today compared to 1997. They have provided an excellent blueprint for success. I'm all for the players being able to have lucrative salaries and long careers as professionals. I like the idea of a 10-month season and league expansion, but it is also important to be realistic. I understand that some good players have exercised their options ton pursue other career paths, but a lot of credit goes to the young women who stay and pioneer the league at this point. Our focus in Boston is on them.