The Boston Breakers have 11 players returning from 2014, forming a decent core of starters and subs. Aside from Alyssa Naeher and possibly Bianca Sierra, it's unlikely the team will see players gone for the World Cup, which is as according to Coach Tom Durkin's plan. Naeher is a critical loss, though, considering her performance last year. Below are evaluations of all returning players and their expected roles in 2015.
Last season stats: 6 starts, 11 appearances, 2 goals
Where she fits in to the team: Durkin used Ezurike sparingly last season. There was talk that she might become a big target striker but it never materialized on the field. Between new international players and draftees, Ezurike faces stiff competition for a starting spot but may also hope to find a strike partner, someone she complements with her size. She might also find more service this season through the midfield or from fullback Kassey Kallman, increasing her value in front of net. Ezurike is still circling the edges of the Canadian national team and will no doubt be looking for every opportunity to prove her quality before the World Cup, including during preseason.
Last season stats: 8 starts, 17 appearances, 3 assists
Where she fits in to the team: Evans swung back and forth from being a starter to an impact sub last season. She's a solid option in midfield with a deceptive fierceness and a willingness to attack one-v-one, but couldn't seem to nail down a starting spot as Durkin experimented all season long with his roster. Evans could see time pushed out wide, or perhaps paired in the center with another attacking mid. Her use as an impact sub shouldn't be discounted either as she often brought renewed energy into games with 30 or 40 minutes left to play.
Last season stats: 15 starts, 17 appearances, 3 goals, 2 assists
Where she fits in to the team: In a recent interview, Durkin expressed his satisfaction with Mewis' preseason performance so far. He also believes Mewis could still obtain a World Cup roster spot, so he may not be planning the start of the season with her in mind. Mewis was on and off for the Breakers in 2014, compiling a serviceable but unmemorable performance. Since then she's played club soccer in Japan for Iga FC Kunoichi, a move Durkin cites as helping her get some spark back in her game. Especially with Lianne Sanderson gone, Durkin could look to Mewis even more to generate attacking options in midfield.
Last season stats: 12 starts, 17 appearances, 4 goals
Where she fits in to the team: Though listed as a midfielder, Schoepfer operates as a forward, with a couple of classic poacher's goals under her belt (though she can also score some crackers too, as seen in the clip below). Schoepfer has always been good for a handful of goals per season, but her best season was during WPSL Elite when she and Kyah Simon combined to terrorize back lines and Schoepfer tallied 7 goals and 6 assists. The current pack of forwards provides more competition and may see Schoepfer used as a sub more often.
Last season stats: 17 starts, 17 appearances, 1 goal, 1 assist
Where she fits in to the team: Julie King has really developed over the years as an asset for the Breakers. Last season was a tough one for the back line and King appeared to be part of the solution as a pairing for Cat Whitehill after Kia McNeill had to withdraw from the team before the season started due to her commitments at Boston College. Injury derailed those plans but King is back, and if she finds the same level this season, could help solidify what was a fairly porous defense.
Last season stats: 18 starts, 21 appearances, 1 assist
Where she fits in to the team: Durkin put a lot of faith in Pathman last season as a wingback for the Breakers, counting on her attacking to help make up for the inevitable learning curve of converting from a forward. Pathman didn't quite deliver on that count and with Durkin intending to convert Bianca Brinson to a right back and Kassey Kallman capable of operating on the left, Pathman may find herself fighting for that starting spot.
Last season stats: 9 starts, 11 appearances, 1 assist
Where she fits in to the team: Sierra is a hard-nosed defender and would be an option on the wing, except she's been seeing regular time with the Mexican National Team and will be gone until after the World Cup. Mexican head coach Leo Cuellar said allocated players would not return for the back end of the season, but other statements from coaching staff indicate it's up to each individual player to decide if she wants to come back.
Last season stats: 24 starts, 24 appearances, 1 assist
Where she fits in to the team: Cat Whitehill is inarguably the lynchpin of the Breakers defense, as well as a decent provider on set pieces and long balls. She might be slowing down with age but she has a wealth of experience and is invaluable in organizing young and new defenders. Last season's defensive woes were due in part to a merry-go-round of players in the back four attempting to adjust to each other and keeper Alyssa Naeher. With Naeher likely gone until after the World Cup, Whitehill's leadership and organization of the defense will be more crucial than ever.
Last season stats: 7 starts, 7 appearances, 1 goal, 1 assist
Where she fits in to the team: Wood came up from the Breakers Reserves and made a decent impact. She found a bit of a groove paired with Cat Whitehill and provided some needed height in the box. Odds are Wood and King will duke it out for that starting spot next to Whitehill. Assuming King wins the spot, Wood may find herself pushed forward instead of benched, but competition up top is tight.
Last season stats: Did not play
Where she fits in to the team: Kranich had some decent performances in preseason in 2014 but saw no game time in 2015 as Naeher reigned dominant. Durkin said that he was aware of the situation and has plans inp lace to get Kranich up to speed during preseason as Naeher will likely be gone for the World Cup.
Last season stats: 24 starts, 24 appearances
Where she fits in to the team: For Boston fans, there aren't enough superlatives for the 2014 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year. Naeher might have had a GAA high enough to pass high school, but she also had the most saves in the league at 106 and kept many games from becoming outright routs. Jill Ellis noticed too, and Naeher seems to have solidified her position as 3rd goalkeeper for the national team. Odds are good she'll be gone until early July.