VANCOUVER, B.C. — It’s been an interesting year for Whitecaps FC rookie Michael Boxall, from the lows of being overlooked in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, to the highs of representing New Zealand in international competition for the first time.
“When you hear people saying you should be going late first [round], early second at least, it was tough not being called that day,” Boxall said about his experience in the SuperDraft. “But it was great being picked up by Vancouver in the [2011 MLS Supplemental Draft].
“Looking back at it, I’m more than happy with the way it’s worked out,” he continued. “Stepping out against each team that passed over you just gives you that motivation.”
Boxall’s season began positively, starting on opening day alongside captain Jay DeMerit in the heart of the ‘Caps defense in a 4-2 victory over Toronto FC. But as centerbacks Greg Janicki and Mouloud Akloul returned from injury, and the team started to struggle, he found himself on the outside looking in.
While things looked a bit bleak at club level for the Auckland native, he received a chance to play internationally for New Zealand, and since breaking through in March with a debut against China, he now has three caps at the senior level.
That time he spent out of the Whitecaps starting lineup, when he didn’t play a first-team match in nearly two months, helped change Boxall’s mind set.
“That time away just made me get that edge back, that motivation to keep plugging away,” he said, “and it seems to have paid off.”
Veteran defender Jonathan Leathers has been impressed by the rookie’s progress in recent matches.
“He’s a young player and he’s learning quickly,” Leathers said. “He’s a big presence. He wins balls and his distribution is getting a lot better.”
Since taking over as head coach, Tom Soehn has given Boxall more responsibility, starting him in the last four games in MLS and Nutrilite Canadian Championship play.
“Michael is an interesting player,” Soehn said. “There’s still a lot of upside to the guy. One of the things you look for from your backs is to be more vocal, and you gain that with experience. That’s an area he can still improve upon, but as far as all the qualities you want out of a center back, he’s got a lot to build off.”