March 27, 2011

Boston Breakers - Can They Take the Final Step?

The Boston Breakers can certainly lay claim to being one of WPS's most stable franchises. They've played in the same city, in the same home stadium, with the same head coach for all three seasons. And for the most part, the Breakers have kept the same core group of players together. With that formula, Boston moved up from a disappointing 5th place finish in 2009 to a 2nd place regular season finish last year. BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB Retirements have certainly hurt the team to some extent, with Angela Hucles retiring following the 2009 season and Kristine Lilly retiring after the 2010 season. It's hard to replace veterans of that caliber, but Boston still has a lot of great veterans left on the team. Most of the non-returning players from 2010 were offensive players...Lilly, Lindsay Tarpley, Fabiana, and Laura del Rio. BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB After Gold Pride folded, the Breakers added Kelley O'Hara to their big two scorers, Kelly Smith and Lauren Cheney. With Lilly retired, Leslie Osborne becomes the veteran leader of the midfield. Last year's rookie sensation Jordan Angeli also returns, although she may end up playing defense as well. Boston is hoping that young players such as Keelin Winters can step up and that Nikki Washington can return to her form before a serious injury setback in 2009. BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB Another Gold Pride refugee, Rachel Buehler, is the biggest addition to the defense, which is both veteran and solid with the likes of Amy LePeilbet, Alex Scott, Stephanie Cox, and Ifeoma Dieke, among others. Alyssa Naeher won the starting goalkeeper's job about a third of the way into the 2010 season and she returns for the 2011 campaign, stabilizing what has been the one position that has seen many changes over the past two years for Boston. BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB Perhaps the biggest problem that Boston will face, other than their WPS competition, will be the number of defecting players due to the World Cup. Boston certainly looks to lose their top three offensive players and possibly their entire back line come June and July. This is definitely a year where depth will come more into play than in the past two seasons. bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb Last season, it appeared that the Breakers were heading for another disappointing season, but a couple of key acquisitions, Dieke and Tarpley, plus the insertion of Angeli and Naeher into the starting lineup by coach Tony DiCicco, turned things around and the Breakers closed the season strong. Only a tough overtime loss in the playoffs kept them from making the finals. Can the 2011 version of the Boston Breakers take the final step to the championship?