Now that Minnesota United has officially announced its signing of Michael Boxall, let's hear more from him and coach Adrian Heath.
This isn't the New Zealand national team defender's first stint in Major League Soccer. The Vancouver Whitecaps FC drafted him No. 1 in the 2011 Supplemental Draft, and he played 19 matches (starting 18) in that inaugural MLS season for Vancouver. He also played a few matches for Vancouver's reserve and U-23 team. But by the 2012 season, he hadn't made any first team appearances, and the club waived him that June.
"With the way I left MLS the first time, I wasn't happy with how that was at," Boxall said. "So I kind of feel like I almost had this unfinished business here that I'd like to get back to work and help this team, help this city."
Heath said he knew making a return to MLS was something Boxall wanted to do, and United was happy to give him that opportunity.
"The two guys we've brought in so far have both demonstrated when we spoke to them that this has been a choice for them," Heath said of Boxall and winger Sam Nicholson. "Sammy had a lot of opportunities, and I know Michael has. So we're delighted that they wanted to come into this league and prove themselves."
Heath said Boxall has been on his radar for two months. The deal to bring the defender to Minnesota was pretty much done a month ago ahead of the Confederations Cup in Russia, where Boxall played with New Zealand. But the team wanted to keep it under wraps until this secondary transfer window, so as not to disrupt such an important tournament.
For his part, Boxall said he spoke to former teammates who had worked with Heath and assistant coach Mark Watson who all thought he would be a good fit with them. Boxall also knew goalkeeping coach Marius Rovde from Vancouver.
He even had a familiar face on the roster in forward Christian Ramirez. The pair overlapped for two seasons in college playing at UC Santa Barbara from 2009-10.
Boxall can play center-back and right-back. While he said center-back is his natural position, he feels "equally comfortable" with both. Heath said Boxall is versatile, has size at 6-2, 200 pounds, and is good in both boxes. His ability to play multiple defensive positions gives the team options at the back, which is very necessary. Heath said Boxall's position will just depend where the need is on any given day, and that just the defender's presence will up the competition level for the starting 11 spots.
While Boxall has had a few weeks off since the Confederations Cup, he said he has "clocked a lot of miles" throughout the past six weeks, traveling across Europe, South Africa (where his former club was) and New Zealand. Boxall arrived in Minnesota on Monday.
Because of that, Heath said Boxall is a "maybe" to play in the friendly against Mexican club Atlas at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium. But regardless when his new player makes his start, Heath is confident in Boxall.
"I believe he can play at this level," Heath said.