MINNEAPOLIS – Just about every player wants to take as little time as possible to join in the action after signing with a new team.
After Boxall and Sam Nicholson obtained their work visas and flew into the Twin Cities from Toronto on Friday, both new signings made surprise starts on Saturday in a 3-0 defeat against the New York Red Bulls.
“Trying to find a nice way to put it other than expletives,” Boxall said. “When you come in, you want to get used to the guys and figure out and understand how each other plays as quickly as possible. I think I’ve really only trained with the guys two or three times, with the full team all together. And I haven’t really played for like a month. I wanted to get the fitness back, but having to spend half the week in Canada sorting that stuff out is less than ideal. Things can only get better than today.”
Minnesota's acquisition of that pair were the MLS' first confirmed moves of the summer transfer window. Nicholson joined on a free transfer from Hearts in Scotland. Then Boxall, a New Zealand international, left SuperSport United in South Africa to help stabilize a defense ravaged by injury and international callups all season long.
“I thought they were terrific,” head coach Adrian Heath told the media after the loss. “Considering that Michael Boxall got in late last night and has been in Canada for four days. And yesterday was on a couple of hour planes. Got here late last night, hasn’t trained for four [days]. Thought he was terrific.”
While Boxall went a full 90 minutes, Nicholson was pulled after 60. The winger brought a lot of pace and energy, but seemed to tire in the 90-degree heat.
“It was really hot for a first game,” the Scot reflected. “The heat was hard for me. I’m used to always the cold temperature in Scotland, so it was a hard one. It wasn’t the result we wanted, but I thought we played well. It was a hard one for us to take, especially three-nil. I don’t think the result reflected the performance. But that’s soccer I suppose.”
Said Heath: “I thought Sam Nicholson showed glimpses of what he’s going to be. He can play. He can run with the ball. He can combine. But more importantly, I love the commitment of the two fellas because they are so far behind the rest of this group in terms of fitness and just to even feel comfortable with the group. I thought for Boxall to get through the way he did, I thought he was terrific.”