The Boston Breakers. Ah, the Boston Breakers. Of close games, a plus-one goal difference, the middle of the table. The Breakers added some stability in net with Alyssa Naeher available for a full season, and some serious firepower up front with the addition of Lisa De Vanna. But are the few changes Tom Durkin made enough to get Boston those last couple inches, or are the Breakers in for another middle of the road kind of season?
Head Coach: Tom Durkin, first season
Where we left off: Boston finished fifth on the table, with an 8-8-6 record and 30 points, six out of the final playoff spot.
A full season for Naeher: Alyssa Naeher returns to the Breakers after joining the team midseason in 2013. Naeher played for the Breakers in the WPS days, but headed to Germany to play for Turbine Potsdam when WPS suspended operations. When she rejoined the Boston last season, Naeher made an immediate impact, allowing just 11 goals in nine games, a big change from the 20 goals Ashley Phillips allowed in her 11 appearances. Rookie Jami Kranich will serve as Naeher's backup.
Consistent: In addition to having Naeher for a full season, Boston also returns most of its defensive corps. Player/assistant coach Cat Whitehill will once again anchor a back four that also welcomes back Jazmyne Avant and Julie King. Durkin did add a pair of newcomers in former FC Kansas city utility player Courtney Jones and Canadian international Chelsea Stewart. Stewart is new to NWSL, but has been a member of the Canada WNT since 2009, where she's earned 44 caps.
Yep, still consistent: One of Boston's biggest problems in 2013 was that the midfield and forwards weren't always on the same page - or even in the same book. Sydney Leroux did have eleven goals last season for the Breakers, but she also disappeared for large chunks of time. A year later, Boston has retained much of its attack, but also made a few upgrades. Heather O'Reilly and Lianne Sanderson, who netted five goals each, are both back, as are Johanna Lohman and Katie Schoepfer. Leroux was shipped to Seattle in exchange for Kristie Mewis, and Boston also added Kaylyn Kyle from the Reign - a move that will certainly give Boston, if nothing else, some physical play in the middle.
The Sydney Leroux replacement sweepstakes: Perhaps the biggest move the Breakers made in the offseason was finding a replacement for Leroux, and Boston certainly got a good in deal in acquiring Lisa De Vanna from Sky Blue FC in exchange for an international roster spot and a first round draft pick in 2015. De Vanna, an Australian international, tallied five goals for Sky Blue FC in 2013. One of those goals happened to be a pretty spectacular, Puskas Award-nominated bicycle kick during a 5-1 Sky Blue rout of a team that was... oh, yeah, the Boston Breakers. De Vanna is fast. Like really, really fast. Where Leroux was often disconnected, De Vanna should have no trouble getting into positions to make all those Heather O'Reilly-dribbles-up-the-sideline-through-everyone-in-her-path runs actually pay off. The big question is whether she'll be able to stay healthy after missing multiple games last season thanks to a string of injuries.
In conclusion: The presence of Naeher - this time from the first game - and the addition of De Vanna, should both be big boosts of confidence for Boston. Durkin did little to make the Breakers "his," but returning so many players may help with that whole getting on the same page thing.