Cat Whitehill

2013 NWSL preview: Boston Breakers

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Western New York Flash may have the last three titles (in three different leagues), but the Boston Breakers carry the claim of being the only franchise in the new National Women’s Soccer League to have also played in the WUSA and WPS, the first two attempts at professional leagues in the U.S.

The Breakers are now led by Lisa Cole, who was Tony DiCicco’s assistant in WPS and who took over as head coach last year, when Boston played in the semi-pro WPSL Elite League during the year of limbo for a women’s top flight.

Cole’s team should have no trouble scoring goals, but it lacks a proven No. 1 goalkeeper, and without that, it could be a very long season for Boston. That could prove for some high-scoring, entertaining games if the Breakers just aim to outscore the opponent.

Who you know: Boston was allocated speedy U.S. forward Sydney Leroux (pictured) and fan favorite right midfielder Heather O’Reilly to build the attack around. U.S. defender Heather Mitts announced her retirement just last month and would have been the other allocated U.S. player for the Breakers. This will be Leroux’s first professional league after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Atlanta Beat in 2012 but never seeing the field due to WPS folding. O’Reilly has been in top form this calendar year, which is a good sign for Boston and the United States.

Who you should know: Besides the fact that these two players are top contenders for coolest hairdos in the league, Lianne Sanderson and Kyah Simon could end up being the life of Boston’s attack — the engines that setup Leroux and O’Reilly. Veteran defenders Cat Whitehill and Kia McNeill will be tasked with leading the backs…and the team.

What it means: Like a few other teams in the league, Boston’s outlook is something of a tossup. The Breakers are likely a middle of the table team, but whether or not that means sneaking into the Top 4 and the playoffs or dropping toward the bottom of the table will likely depend on coaching and how well the backline performs. The potent attack will need to live up to that billing, too.

Boston opens the season at home against the Washington Spirit on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET.

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NWSL Update: Finally, some signings (just not enough)

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The new National Women’s Soccer League’s free agency period closed on Thursday. At least, we suspect it closed, mostly because that’s what the league had previously announced.

From Jan. 18 through Jan. 31 teams would be able to sign four-to-five additional players. Teams were allowed to announce their recruits until the end of the window, but given most teams had verbal agreements with reinforcements before the league identified its free agency period, surely Jan. 31 or Feb. 1 would see a huge list of announcements. Fans would finally see a month of links between players and teams be confirmed or denied.

No such luck. Some teams have leaked or confirmed signings, but for the most part, everybody’s still in the dark, and nobody’s sure why. One way or another — whether it’s behind the scenes or front and center on social media — teams have made it clear their part of free agency is done, but with U.S. Soccer (who runs the league) not only approving all contracts but choosing to have approval over all press releases from clubs, there seems to be a bottle neck. News is only going to flow with the league turns to faucet.

Chalk it up to growing pains. If all goes well, these early hiccups will be buried by time, but with fans having waited around to hear who the eight teams had signed to augment the 10-11 players already on rosters, there’s understandable disappointment that news hasn’t come. It’s not the first time a new league has chosen to err on the side of control rather than let details flow (see early MLS), but don’t expect that to satiate information-starved fans.

A few notes have trickled in. In New Jersey, Sky Blue signed a strong class of free agents headed by midfielder Brittany Bock and Australian attacker Lisa De Vanna. For a team that had been defense-heavy in their previous acquisitions, De Vanna’s is a particularly welcome arrival, as is the signing of forward Danesha Adams. Midfielder Manya Makoski rounds out Sky Blue’s four.

Western New York, who were given an extra free agent slot as a result of getting one fewer U.S. international in allocation, have also had their free agents identified. Brittany Taylor has been added to the defense, Sarah Huffman and McCall Zerboni bolster the midfield, while Spanish international Adriana and Australian Samantha Kerr augment an attack that already features Abby Wambach and Mexican international Veronica Perez.

Boston announced the return of defender Cat Whitehill, Chicago’s announced the capture of Lesley Osborne, but the rest of the signings are left to speculation. We know Portland will eventually announce the captures of former Tar Heels Allie Long and Nikki Washington. It’s widely known Boston will add English forward Lianne Sanderson and have long settled on their other two signings. FC Kansas City will add former University of Virginia midfielder Sinead Farrelly and have also been linked to forward Melissa Henderson and former WPS Best XI midfielder Jen Buczkowski.

Other confirmations and half-acknowledgements float around social media, and in all likelihood, each of the league’s 36 free agent slots have been filled. We just don’t know who’s filled them.

Expect more news to start trickling in at the beginning of the week. With a Supplemental Draft to round out rosters slated for Thursday, we should know team’s 18-20 woman rosters by the end of the week.

At least, in theory.