December 20, 2009

Boston Breakers-The Offseason So Far

In the 3rd installment on WPS teams in the offseason, we'll look at the Boston Breakers.

When Last We Left Them...

The Breakers finished in 5th place with 25 points, just a point behind 4th place Sky Blue and out of the playoffs. Like Gold Pride and Chicago, they played very well early in the season and after defeating Los Angeles on May 2, they looked like they would challenge the Sol for 1st place. However, a May/June slump sent them back in the pack. Still, with just two weeks to go in the season, they were in good shape for the playoffs at 7-6-4. They never got another point, falling to LA in a must win match on the final day of the season as the Sol netted two 2nd half goals to defeat Boston 2-1.

The Breakers boasted a solid defense, but scored only 18 goals. Leading scorer Kelly Smith had injury issues, but still managed a fine season in spite of rarely being 100% physically. Boston only scored more than one goal on 3 occasions and not at all after June 21. Their midseason goalkeeper change to Allison Lipsher made their defense even stronger, but scoring just one goal total in their last four games doomed their playoff chances.

Roster Moves

If you could choose one word to describe the Breakers' offseason it would be eventful. Although they still have a core from last year's team, their 2010 roster will be quite different from that of 2009. Gone are Angela Hucles (retired), Heather Mitts (free agent), Amy Rodriguez (trade), Kelly Schmedes (expansion), Sue Weber (expansion), and Candace Chapman (free agent). That's two of their 3 USWNT allocations, the number one choice in the 2009 draft, and three other key players from their 2009 roster. Add to that Sophia Mundy, who was recently signed by Atlanta and Nancy Augustyniak Goffi, who reportedly has retired and we're talking about over one-third of the team' starts for last season.

The trade of Rodriguez was not a surprise as there appeared to be some friction between her and head coach Tony DiCicco for much of the season. She played only 61 minutes over the final 6 games of the year and it was a foregone conclusion that she would not be back with Boston in 2010. Boston traded Rodriguez and their 1st round pick to Philadelphia for the number 2 and 11 picks in the 2010 draft. The trade should work out well for both parties with Boston gaining a high draft choice and Rodriguez getting a chance for a new start.

Likewise, Heather Mitts signing with Philly was no surprise. However, the retirement of Angela Hucles caught a lot of people off guard. Hucles is just 31 years old and had helped lead the US to an Olympic Gold Medal just a year earlier.

Boston quickly moved to fill some of those gaps by signing Tiffany Weimer and Leslie Osborne, two of the more coveted available free agents. Both spent their 2009 seasons with FC Gold Pride. Osborne, an USWNT allocation herself, started 18 games for FCGP and was a stalwart at midfield. She is a hard tackling defensive mid who should help strengthen the Breakers' center. Osborne has 61 caps and 3 goals for the US National Team.

Weimer, started last season in fine fashion, scoring a goal and adding 3 assists in her first four games. But she rarely started after midseason and Gold Pride waived their option on her for 2010. She is a highly creative forward and should help the Breakers' offense in 2010. The Breakers also signed Erika Sutton, a Florida State alum, who saw action in one match for Boston as a short term player due to roster depletion as a result of national team call ups. There is also a strong likelihood that Brazilian forward Fabiana could be back with the Breakers in 2010.

Current Roster

Goalkeepers (1)-Allison Lipsher.
Defenders (3)-Amy LePeilbet, Alex Scott, Erika Sutton.
Midfielders (6)-Kristine Lilly (MF/F), Mary-Frances Monroe, Kasey Moore, Leslie Osborne, Kelly Smith, Maggie Tomecka.
Forwards (3)-Christine Latham, Jennifer Nobis, Tiffany Weimer.

Additions-Osborne, Sutton, and Weimer.
Subtractions-Amy Rodriguez (traded to Philadelphia), Sue Weber (drafted by Philadelphia), Kelly Schmedes (drafted by Philadelphia), Angela Hucles (retired), Heather Mitts (signed by Philadelphia), Candace Chapman (signed by Gold Pride), Sophia Mundy (signed by Atlanta), Nancy Augustyniak Goffi (retired).

Other Free Agents from 2009 roster-Abby Crumpton, Fabiana, Kristin Luckenbill, Ashley Phillips.

Internationals-Scott, Smith, and Latham with 2 slots open (Fabiana is likely to be one of them).
Draft Picks (in first 3 rounds)-Nos. 2, 11, 16, and 25.

Needs to Address

Even though they had trouble scoring in 2009, the Breakers' number one need has to be defense. They have two of the world's best in Scott and LePeilbet, but they lost 42 of the team's 80 defensive starts with Mitts, Goffi, Chapman, and Weber. With the number 2 pick in the draft, it would appear to point to Whitney Engen, North Carolina's all-everything defender. Engen is a four year starter for the Tar Heels and the consensus best defender in the coming draft. After playing two years at forward for UNC, she made the transition to defense look easy.

Scoring is still a need, even if Fabiana is on board for the 2010 season. The foursome of Fabiana, Latham, Nobis, and Weimer only scored a total of 5 goals last season. Kelly Smith led the team in scoring with 6 goals, but injuries and call ups limited her late season output. Kristine Lilly will be back and is still an amazing player, but another scorer would certainly be in order for Boston.

As with several teams, Boston also needs to address the backup keeper situation. As stated earlier, there will be several keepers available in the draft and last year's developmental keeper Ashley Phillips could still be in the picture.

The Breakers must do better in this year's draft. They possess 3 of the top 16 picks. Out of their 2009 draft class, only Jenny Nobis and Kasey Moore are still with the team. Boston has a lot of talented players to build around with Smith, Scott, Lilly, LePeilbet, and Osborne, but they must still fill in the gaps around that talent. Perhaps fittingly, the Breakers' 2010 home opener will be against Philadelphia. Mitts, Rodriguez, Schmedes, and Weber will return to Boston to play against their old team.