Until she went to UCLA and starred for a team stocked with future NWSL and international standouts, Megan Oyster didn’t quite grasp her own potential. Those years with the Bruins — highlighted by the program’s first national championship in 2013, her junior year — opened her eyes to the fact that she could play professional soccer.
A few years later, a different, harsher epiphany hit her on the other side of the country. After playing every minute of a tremendous rookie season with the Washington Spirit in 2015, Oyster fell out of favor with new coach Jim Gabarra last year and lost her spot in the starting lineup. She did return to the first XI for the NWSL title match (which the Spirit lost to the Western New York Flash on penalties), but less than two months later, Washington dealt a humbled Oyster to the Boston Breakers.
"Going into this year, I try to focus really, really hard in training so I don’t take any role for granted, no matter what it is," said Oyster, who turns 25 Sept. 3. "It kind of made me really, really motivated to want to prove myself even more this year, to show that I can be a starting player that has value and that doesn’t want to be off the field and shouldn’t be off the field, and to give valid reasons for that. … I want it to be known that I should be on the field, and I don’t want to give them any reason to take me off. I think I had to learn that the hard way, but I’m thankful for it, and I think I’ve learned a lot."
She certainly hasn’t given her new team any reason to stick her on the bench. With Oyster a fixture at center back, the Breakers have made extraordinary strides in their own half of the field, restoring the defense to respectability. Last year, Boston surrendered 2.35 goals per game; that ghastly number was down to 1.28 through 18 matches this season. Other than missing one June game due to a knee sprain, Oyster has played every minute, assuming a major role in the club’s turnaround.