Three members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic gold medal team, an Olympic bronze medalist from Canada, and young, rising stars from Canada and Mexico are the first seven players to join the Boston Breakers for the 2013 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season.
Midfielder Heather O’Reilly, forward Sydney Leroux, and defender Heather Mitts led the U.S. to gold in London last summer. Rhian Wilkinson helped Canada gain bronze and was a member of her country’s FIFA Women’s World Cup team in 2011. Also joining the Breakers are Canadian forward Adriana Leon, a 20-year-old forward who is currently in China with the senior women’s team in Canada, competing in the Four Nations Tournament, and Mexican internationals Anisa Guajardo, a forward, and keeper Cecilia Santiago.
"This is an exciting time for the Boston Breakers as we start building our team for the 2013 NWSL season," Boston Breakers General Manager Lee Billiard said. "We are delighted to have these seven world class players join our club."
O’Reilly, a three-time Olympic gold medalist (2004, 2008, 2012) returns for her second season with the Breakers. She played two games last year, picking up two assists. O’Reilly has been capped 179 times and has 36 goals in her international career. Mitts also returns to Boston, having played for the Breakers in the inagural Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) season. Mitts played in 19 games, logging 1,631 minutes for the Breakers in 2009. Mitts has been capped 137 times for the U.S. and won Olympic gold in 2012, 2008, and 2004.
Leroux is one of the rising stars of the U.S. Women’s National Team. The former UCLA star played in 27 games for the U.S., all off the bench, and scored 14 goals. The 22-year-old from Los Angeles won the Golden Ball as the top scorer to lead the U.S. to the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup title.
Wilkinson has had tremendous success with Canada, playing up top, in the middle, and on defense. She helped lead the Canadians to a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics and won gold with Canada at the 2011 Pan Am Games. Wilkinson most recently played for LSK in Norway’s top-flight league, Toppserien. The Quebec native has 131 caps for Canada and made her debut for her country on April 26, 2033, against the U.S. Leon, a 20-year-old forward from Ontario, was a member of Canada’s U-20 teams in 2010 and 2012, scoring a total of eight goals.
Guarjado, a forward, has been a part of the Mexico national team system for the past four years, starting out with the U-17s before moving up to the U-20s. She most recently played at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., finishing her four-year college career with 27 goals and 14 assists. Santiago was a member of Mexico’s World Cup team in 2011 at just 16 years old. She previously played for the club, Laguna in Mexico.
The seven players make up 55 allocated players from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico soccer federations.
The allocation process was conducted with assistance from a panel of experts familiar with the player pools, including individuals from the collegiate level, recent professional and semi-professional clubs, and the youth and senior national team level in North America.
Along with the panel’s collective input on the technical ability of the players, in preparation for the allocation, players selected their preferred destinations and the clubs also provided their preference with regard to specific players and qualities of players desired. Based on the input from the panel of experts and the teams, players were assigned numerical values on quality and desirability.
U.S. Soccer is subsidizing the salaries of the American players, while the Canadian Soccer Association and the Federation of Mexican Football will each do the same for their players. All 18 U.S. players on the gold medal-winning 2012 Olympic team are included in the allocation, while 13 of the Canadian players were part of the bronze medal-winning team.