By TOM SLATER
As the National Women’s Soccer League opens its fifth season, there’s been more shuttling of players between the United States and Europe than ever before.
Crystal Dunn, Heather O’Reilly, Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd have moved abroad. But the Brazilian star Marta is back in the United States, but is unlikely to play for Orlando this weekend.
On Easter Sunday, the focus in NWSL will be on three players — one making her debut, two making their returns.
One of the players to watch is Boston’s Rose Lavelle, fresh off a two-game set of international friendlies with Russia. Lavelle is the new darling of women’s soccer. Her technique, savvy and vision were all on display in the two easy victories for the United States.
Lavelle, the NWLS’s first pick in January’s 2017 college draft, is being counted on as the leader of the young Breakers. Boston had four first-round picks in the draft.
Lavelle, Morgan Andrews, Ifeoma Onumonu and Margaret Purce are among the talented rookies hoping to lead the Breakers out of the NWSL cellar — as spot they have occupied the last two years.
FC Kansas City will turn to a pair of United States internationals — Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux — to regain the championship form of two years ago. Both players took last season off to give birth and are now looking to get back to the international level. For Leroux, it will be her first game with the Blues. She joined the team in a preseason trade a year ago.
Despite its dismal record of late, Boston has beaten Kansas City the last two times the teams have met. Another Boston win and it will be the first time the Breakers have beaten any team three straight games.
TV contracts are always a sign of health for a professional sports league. And although the NWSL announced its new Game of the Week deal with the Lifetime cable channel during the winter, many fans didn’t know if they would be able to watch their favorite team at home or on the road.
The NWSL announced that 98 games will be shown live thanks to a partnership with go90. Every game, except for those carried on Lifetime, will be streamed live. The mobile streaming service will feature 98 NWSL games .
The go90 schedule begins with four games on the opening weekend, including a rematch of the 2016 championship game with the Washington Spirit hosting the North Carolina Courage at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
The defending champion Courage (formerly the WNY Flash) will again be without Coach Paul Riley in the season opener.
The NWSL suspended Riley for two games and fined him an undisclosed amount for misconduct related to last year’s semifinal against the Portland Thorns.
The NWSL disciplinary committee determined that Riley committed misconduct, characterized as physical contact with game officials. Riley served one game of the suspension in the championship game on Oct. 9. Courage assistant Scott Vallow will again coach the team against Washington.
This week’s schedule his here.