EASTHAM — For the Wellfleet Breakers Soccer Club, the playing field is reshaped every summer. Each year, the team welcomes local players new and old, be they college athletes or year-round workers, for a season of fun and competitive play.
The Breakers met under the lights at Nauset Regional High School on Sunday night to face the Harwich Blues. The Blues are defending league champions, so General Manager Anthony Conte knew the match would be challenging. In cool and slippery conditions, the Breakers fell to the Blues 4-1, putting their record for the young season at 1-2.
“To be honest, we lost a nucleus of players this year,” says Conte. “We picked up more new players to replace them, and our goal is to reintegrate [those new players] this season.”
The Breakers kicked off their 12th season on June 12 in a close match won by Scorcha FC, 3-2. A 3-1 win over Mid-Cape United followed on June 15.
Conte was pleased with the win. “In the beginning of the season, most of your rustiness is in front of the net,” he said. “What is encouraging to me is that we have certainly improved between our first and second games.”
An expansion of the Cape Cod Amateur Soccer League this year, with the introduction of two Yarmouth-based teams (Jamaica United and Scorcha FC), led to the loss of six Breakers players. Nevertheless, Conte says that he “wants to see the league grow” and supports the development of new teams.
The league, founded in 1971, now has seven clubs. Conte, who played for the Chatham Fog in the early 1980s, has seen the league evolve over the years. There is no funding from the league itself, so each club is responsible for its own fundraising and sponsorships to cover league fees, uniforms, field costs, and referees.
Conte says the Breakers have had “tremendous” support from the Flying Fish Café and the Newcomb Hollow Shop. There’s also an annual fundraiser and raffle.
This season, despite the losses, a strong core of returning players remains. Nauset High graduate Anthony Lovati leads the offense. Dominating the midfield is Joseph Leone, a mid-Cape resident and former semi-professional player. Conte calls him “the quarterback.” Former Nauset player Nick Norman anchors the defense as right and center back.
Joining this core on Sunday night was Grady Dawson, who scored the team’s lone goal 25 minutes into the second half off a lofty assist from Lovati. Tommy Bobbio brought offensive pressure and speed, securing several breakaways, while defenseman Kevon Campbell showed control by the net. Despite some excellent saves from goalkeeper Noah Lawless, a hat trick by Luis Mattos in the second half put the Blues too far ahead for the Breakers to recover.
Manager Dino Salzano, a former Breaker himself, hopes that the core of young talent will serve as a foundation. “There have been guys that have been there from day one,” Salzano says, but it is a challenge every summer to generate interest. “You never know what you’re gonna get.”
The challenge comes from the balance of work and sport that most players face. “A lot of guys have 9 to 5 jobs and then come out to play soccer,” Salzano says. “It’s a big commitment, especially after you work a full day of landscaping.”
This season, Salzano is glad to see his youngest son, Aidan, playing for the Breakers. “It’s good to see him in the summer league, having to work but making time to play.”
For Lovati, the balance of work and competition has defined the past three summers. This year, his fourth season with the Breakers, he is working for state Sen. Julian Cyr’s campaign.
“Sometimes it’s a little rough,” says Lovati. “But once you get to the field, it doesn’t matter how tired you are. Everyone on the team just likes to play.”
Teammate Connor Cushing works six days a week at the Red Barn Pizza in Eastham, including a 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift on Sunday. Then, it’s off to the soccer field.
“It’s just how my summers are,” he says of juggling work, soccer, and free time. This is Cushing’s third summer with the Breakers, following a successful first year playing soccer at Wheaton College.
What distinguishes the Breakers from other teams in the league, according to Conte, is diversity.
“It’s completely about diversity with us,” he says. “We have kids from Nauset, Latin American players, and about five Jamaicans.” Ages range from 18 to early 30s. “The challenge with this diversity is the style — trying to get the different groups on the same page,” says Conte.
The Breakers will have their annual fundraiser on Thursday, June 23 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Flying Fish Cafe in Wellfleet. The club faces Jamaica United on Sunday, June 26 at 7:30 p.m. at home on Nauset High’s turf. On Wednesday, June 29, they travel to Sandwich to take on the Knights in a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.