Allocation casts O’Reilly as early Breakers linchpin

Meg Linehan January 14, 2013 1

Heather O'Reilly (right) will be the cornerstone of Boston's midfield. (Photo Copyright: Meg Linehan for EqualizerSoccer.com)

In Friday’s allocation, the Boston Breakers received U.S. women national team players Heather O’Reilly, Heather Mitts, Sydney Leroux, as well as Adriana Leon and Rhian Wilkinson of Canada and Cecilia Santiago and Anisa Guajardo of Mexico.

Breakers head coach Lisa Cole is starting to see her team taking shape past allocation, with both the college draft and the start of free agency imminent. The work is only just beginning for Boston to complete their roster in advance of the 2013 season.

“We were trying to fill some important roles in our team and we were able to do that, so we’re excited about it,” Cole said of the allocation process. “But we also have certain spots in our roster that are still open and need to be filled, so then the process begins.”

Perhaps one of the most expected allocations, U.S. national team winger Heather O’Reilly, will return to the Breakers after playing two games with Boston last year in the WPSL Elite League. The continuity of her playing for the Breakers will be key on the field, as well as marketing the team to existing fans.

Cole already knows what she’s getting with O’Reilly: non-stop production.

“[O'Reilly's] engine is unbelievable,” Cole said. “She’s like a younger [Kristine] Lilly. You look at her work rate, and what she’s been able to accomplish over the years from being a young player on the national team to being a veteran player on the national team, and she’s just done a great job.”

Cole also loves what O’Reilly brings to the team and its fans.

“She’s got a great personality. She’s someone people should aspire to be, on and off the field.”

Mitts is also returning to play in Boston, having spent the 2009 WPS season with the Breakers. She appeared in 19 games that season and notched an assist on a goal scored by Kelly Smith.

She departed after some frustration with being slotted in as the starting left back due to England international Alex Scott being chosen to start as right back by coach Tony DiCicco.

Lisa Cole will face a similar conundrum, having received Mitts and Wilkinson in allocation; both play right back.

The line-ups are still a few months off though. In the meantime, Cole was enthusiastic about Mitts and her dedication to the game.

“If people say, ‘oh, you can’t do this,’ she goes out and does that,” Cole said. “‘We’re not sure about you coming back for the Olympics because of an injury.’ She comes back, she’s fit, she’s healthy. She has a mentality that can’t be matched and I really like her leadership.”

“With Mitts, we’re going to be able to set the standard of what the Boston Breakers are going to be about.”

On Saturday, Heather O’Reilly and Heather Mitts spoke to The Equalizer on returning to Boston while in town for the Empowerment through Sport Leadership conference.

The Breakers did pick up three young forwards, one from each of the three federations involved in the NWSL. Sydney Leroux will be a large piece of the new Boston offense, not to mention an attraction for the team in the marketing department.

With Leroux playing the role of “super sub” for the USWNT, Cole likes to think of her as “being on the verge of having a break-out season.

“She’s a bright, young star waiting for an opportunity.”

Leon and Guajardo are not as well known in the United States. Leon just made her international debut for Canada and scored the winning goal against China PR in the first match of the Yongchuan Cup. Guajardo played for Pepperdine University and was the leading scoring for the Division I team her junior and senior years (nine and 10 goals scored, respectively).

The Breakers could still be in the market for another star striker to pair with Leroux. Kyah Simon of the Australian national team and Sydney FC in the Westfield W-League led the Breakers in scoring in the 2012 WPSL Elite League season. She would be a natural fit to play with Leroux. Simon could also be a reasonably affordable option considering the salary cap rules of the NWSL.

As for Leon and Guajardo, Cole isn’t worried about how the Breaker’s allocation seems stacked with forwards.

“People get caught up in what’s on paper as far as what’s listed for a player’s position, when that’s a very narrow point of view on what their skill set is.”

Leon and Guajardo could see time as attacking midfielders or play on the wing. “Both of those players will evolve and find a place within our system.”

Regardless of where they end up on the field, Cole has high expectations from them both.

“We got some players that people don’t know well enough yet to be excited about, but I’m excited about them.”

The Breakers will also be in the market for another goalkeeper. They were allocated Cecilia Santiago, who became the youngest goalkeeper to appear in an international tournament at the age of 16 in the 2011 Women’s World Cup. She also has experience playing for the Mexico U-20 and U-17 national teams.

It might be a few months before the Breakers determine their starting goalkeeper. Cole is being realistic about launching Santiago right into the net to face the likes of an offensive duo like Morgan and Sinclair in Portland or Wambach and Lloyd in Rochester.

“She’s athletic, she’s strong, she’s young — she’s incredibly young,” Cole said. “I think she’s someone that in the future, we’ll be really, really excited about. Do I think she can step in and start right away? I won’t know until we get her out on the field.

“I’m excited about where she can be as a player and her potential. I think she’s in the right spot. Boston will be a good place for her.””

If the Breakers are looking for a keeper in the competitive free agents market, this could be one of the spots for their two allowed international players. The challenge, as always, will be the salary cap. There won’t be many goalkeeping options for the teams of the NWSL that aren’t already signed in various European leagues.

Rounding out the allocated players is Wilkinson. Primarily a defensive player, she could also be used in various positions to suit the Breakers’ needs. Wilkinson made her 133rd appearance for the Canadian national team in the second match of the Yongchuan Cup and is now ranked third in all-time appearances.

Both Mitts and O’Reilly were excited about Wilkinson’s allocation in Boston, calling her one of the top Canadian National Team players.

“I’m excited to pick her up,” Cole said. “I think she has a lot of intangibles.”

Friday’s college draft offers the next opportunity to add to the roster.

Kristie Mewis, a future national team player with significant local ties, may be hard to pass up in the draft if the Breakers manage to score a high enough pick, but Boston and Cole will have BYU defender Lindsi Cutshall on their radar to help round out their defensive line.

With no contracts officially signed, but players (including 2011 and 2012 captain Leslie Osborne) confirming that verbal agreements have begun, Lisa Cole merely said, “[The Breakers] put out an offer that we think is fair and we hope that she will be back in Boston.” Cole sincerely expressed how much she enjoys coaching Osborne and restated her support for Osborne’s return to the U.S. national team.

Cole understands the final choice is on Osborne and could involve more than returning to familiar fields and a dedicated fan following in Boston.

“If ultimately other factors come into play, she has to make a decision that’s best for her and I’ll respect that, too.”

The Breakers are coming off their best regular season record in the history of the team, having finished first in the WPSL Elite League regular season.

  • Diane (DeeG)

    As exciting as the allocations were, the draft and free agent signings could easily surpass that. I’d love to see Cutshall and also Tameka Butt return. I know everyone is high on Simon, she is very good, but “Meeks” is healthy again and tearing up the Australian W-League. Might even be a less expensive signing.