SOMERVILLE — The Boston Breakers stumbled through the inaugural season of the National Women’s Soccer League.
Hampered by inconsistency, Breakers general manager Lee Billiard fired coach Lisa Cole on Aug. 2.
“We’ve had some issues, obviously,” said forward Sydney Leroux, a rising star on the US women’s national team.
But on Saturday — in their final home game of the year — the Breakers showed spark and resilience, defeating first-place FC Kansas City, 1-0, in front of 2,116 at Dilboy Stadium.
After the match, defender Cat Whitehill, who was thrust into the interim role of player-coach after Cole’s departure, grabbed a microphone, walked over to the bleachers, and addressed the crowd.
“We’re going to come back next season, and we’re going to keep this winning streak alive,” Whitehill said. “And you’re going to say, ‘Remember the last time we lost?’ Because we don’t remember. So let’s keep this going.”
The crowd erupted.
Boston (8-7-6), already eliminated from playoff contention, will play one final game, Saturday in Rochester, N.Y., against the Western NY Flash.
The Breakers were undefeated under Whitehill (2-0-1), including the victory against Kansas City (11-5-5), which entered Saturday unbeaten in its last 10 games.
Kansas City defeated Boston twice this season, shutting out the Breakers each time, with a 2-0 win May 18 and a 3-0 victory July 24.
“Right now some people are like, ‘What are you playing for?’ ” Whitehill said. “It’s to get better.”
“We showed our character,” Leroux said. “We’ve struggled a little bit. But coming back and ending off the season, we did awesome.”
Leroux scored the lone goal Saturday in the 65th minute.
The speedy forward also provided most of the fireworks, with several sideline dashes that brought loud cheers from the crowd, consisting mostly of families, youth soccer teams, and summer camps.
It was the ninth sellout of the season, meaning more than 26,000 fans came to see the Breakers. That’s welcome news for the NWSL, the third attempt at a professional women’s soccer league in the United States.
The NWSL’s predecessors, the Women’s United Soccer Association and Women’s Professional Soccer, each lasted three seasons.
Yet the new league features an eight-team format and scaled-down business model. Perhaps most importantly, Whitehill said, is support it gets from US Soccer.
Of course, there was some skepticism given past failures.
“I was optimistic [for the NWSL],” said the 31-year-old Whitehill. “But cautiously optimistic.”
Most players were personally affected by the previous failures. Leroux, for example, was drafted by the WPS.
“And I didn’t get to play,” Leroux said. “It folded right after I got drafted.”
This time, it could be a model that works.
“There’s an immense belief that there’s a space for women’s soccer in this country,” said midfielder Heather O’Reilly, a three-time gold medalist with the US Olympic team. “And we believe that it could work if the right pieces are put together.”
O’Reilly said it is important to take “baby steps” and not try to grow too much, too fast.
Goals for next season?
“Hopefully we continue with a television contract,” O’Reilly said. “Maybe get a couple more games on television, which would be awesome for the sport.”
As for the Breakers, Whitehill covered that in her speech to the fans.
“Next year, when you see us, we’re going to be better, we’re going to be stronger, we’re going to be fitter, we’re going to be faster,” Whitehill said. “With a lot more goals and a lot more wins.”