Clad in the Breakers’ no. 10 shirt, Rosie White is taking on a new role this year as a playmaker after spending much of her career as a forward or wing. But while she hasn’t always been a creative midfielder, she’s long been creative.
The New Zealand international runs a website (rawstoriesbyrosie.com) that features her own art, writing and photography — including a striking collection of black-and-white shots of other women who’ve made soccer their career. One of the site’s goals is to inspire female athletes, but it clearly benefits its creator as well.
“It’s really important for me,” said White, who signed with Boston in November after two seasons at Liverpool LFC. “I need to have balance in my life to be happy, and it’s something that sort of keeps me really relaxed. I’m not really good at sitting still and not being active. When you’re training and you’re tired, it’s just a really good outlet for me to be able to just sit there and relax and draw or write. It sort of keeps me sane. It’s kind of like my little happy place.”
The pitch has been a happier place for the Breakers in 2017. They surpassed last season’s points total of 11 by the first day of July, and harbor hopes of climbing in the standings over the final two months of the season. White has been an important part of the club’s revival, bringing ample amounts of experience and energy to a new position in a new league.
“It’s been quite an easy transition, and I think she’s been excellent for us this season,” said Breakers head coach Matt Beard, who worked with White at Liverpool in 2015. “She’s settled down in the position. She’s strong, she’s athletic, she’s very good on the ball, and she surprised me with the way she gets about the pitch.”
But White’s motor has never been a hidden attribute in the mind of Sam Mewis (Hanson, Mass.), the North Carolina Courage midfielder who joined White and Breakers center back Megan Oyster on the UCLA squad that won the 2013 NCAA College Cup crown.
“I think that one of the things that has always stood out about her was her fitness and her willingness to go and do extra work and do extra speed work and extra shooting,” Mewis said. “She always would win our fitness tests; she was always in such great shape. And that just allows her to run all game. She makes runs in the 90th minute that other people can’t necessarily make. And just that grit that she has always added so much to her as a player.”
White’s fitness level has allowed her to keep pace in a league that she says is “a lot more transitional” than England’s FA Women’s Super League, as well as cover more ground as needed in the middle of the pitch. And while she’d never regularly played as a No. 10 before this season, she’s taken to the job fairly quickly.
“It’s nice to have a more defined role that I can really work on,” White said. “I think I just like being involved in the game a little bit more, having more defensive responsibility … (and) having a little bit more freedom to roam from the left or the right. I think definitely it’s a little bit of a freer role, but also there’s a bit more responsibility.”
Now she and her teammates are looking for a bit more offense. Over the first three months of the season, the Breakers significantly shored up their defense; through July 20, only three teams had allowed fewer goals than their 15. However, with just 10 goals scored in those 14 matches, the Breakers ranked last in the NWSL by a wide margin. White knows she has room for improvement. She had a goal and an assist in her first 13 appearances, and her passing accuracy (67.4 percent, according to Opta stats) was somewhat low for the position. She admits that she’d like to generate more shots and get more touches as the season progresses.
But while the hamstring injury that’s sidelined rookie sensation Rose Lavelle (White’s central midfield partner) since June has clearly taken a toll on the attack, White believes that Boston has the pieces in place to be more productive.
“Now it’s about bringing back that attacking flair that we have; we have players that can create things and score goals,” White said. “I think we’ve got a bit of confidence back now. We know we can compete with some of the best teams in the league, and we have done already this season. I think it’s just that confidence to be able to put numbers forward now and really go for it and use our attacking players. And also, I think having Rose back will be a big piece of it as well.”
While Lavelle turned heads with her debut performances for the U.S. national team in the spring, White has been a fixture with New Zealand for years, earning 84 caps and featuring in two World Cups and two Olympics. She may only be 24 years old, but she has the résumé of a veteran — and she’s ready to be one for her club.
“I feel like I’m now finally at a stage where I can start using that experience and try and just keep the calm on the field, and also try and help drive the team and be a leader,” White said. “I think the biggest way I can lead is by example and just working really hard.”
Several of White’s artworks feature the silhouette of a girl casting the shadow of a lion as she runs or dribbles a ball. The Breakers haven’t fully roared yet, but their coach believes the young Kiwi with a creative streak — on and off the field — will help them get there.
“She’s my type of player, my type of person,” Beard said, “and as this team develops, she’s only going to get better for us.”