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Final

Rookie Boxall stepping up to the challenge for Vancouver

VANCOUVER, B.C. – Finally, Michael Boxall got to talk with reporters about something other than the Rugby World Cup.

The New Zealand international made his return to the starting lineup in this past Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders. While the result was obviously disappointing, it was a positive for the 23-year-old to step on the field again after more than a month on the sidelines.

“That’s what you look for — I like to play in front of those crowds and those types of games with that sort of atmosphere,” Boxall told MLSsoccer.com after Saturday’s match. “It’s great to be back, but we couldn’t get the job done.”

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The match was Boxall’s 17th start of his rookie season, and he had a steady game alongside captain Jay DeMerit in the heart of the Vancouver defense.

Interim head coach Tom Soehn has mentioned on a number of occasions that the Auckland native has played more games than originally planned, largely because of injuries to DeMerit and Alain Rochat, and that tiredness has set in for the towering center back at times this campaign.

For Boxall, though, the biggest challenge in Saturday’s match was returning to the lineup after a bit of an absence.

“It’s a few more games than I’m used to playing, but I’ve had instances where I’ve gone nine, 10 games, then sat out a bit, then another nine or 10, then sat out, then just got in again [on Saturday],” Boxall said. “The fatigue’s not really a factor, but it’s hard when you sit out trying to get that match-quickness, match-fitness.

“Although you’re training week in, week out, there’s nothing quite like a 90-minute match, so it’s quite tough to stay in tune for that, but once you get those opportunities you just have to give it your all and hope it’s not your last.”

Vancouver’s selection of Boxall in the 2011 MLS Supplemental Draft now seems like a savvy move from the club, given the player’s consistency at this early stage in his career.

“For Boxy, we put him in a spot this year where he had to play a lot more than he had to,” Soehn said. “Having to watch Alain and Jay the last few games has done him some good. He’s still growing as a player and ultimately I think there’s a real upside to the kid on the competitive side. There’s a lot of room for growth with him and I think we can build him into something special.”

Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.