Michael Boxall has slowly become a rock in the back line of Minnesota United’s poor defense; and its finally paying off.
Somehow Boxall has always been overshadowed, despite his experience in both club and international play. Minnesota received Michael Boxall through a free transfer in July of 2017. The team was a defensive nightmare in its inaugural season. In July of 2017 before Michael Boxall ventured north, United had only won 5 out of its 19 games. The Loons also had over 40 goals scored against their sadly depleted defense.
It would be a laugh to say that Boxall turned the season around, because after all, he just plain didn’t. The Loons ended the season—as we all know—much closer to the bottom of the table than the top, with a final goal difference of -23. But in his second season with the Loons, he seems more comfortable in the back, and more recently he has seemed to solidify the back line for MNUFC.
Boxall had a successful career of his own before Minnesota United. The defender won the New Zealand League trophy with his hometown club, Auckland City FC. He also was a regular starter at African club SuperSport United, winning back to back domestic cup trophies. Boxall is not without MLS experience, having been drafted number one in the supplemental draft to the Whitecaps, and spending his next two years at the Canadian club.
Beyond club soccer, Boxall has played for the New Zealand national team (not the rugby one), with 32 appearances. Big Boxall found himself starting all of the Confederations Cup in 2017. Funnily enough, the New Zealand national team actually played the United States in 2016, and Michael Boxall raked an assist in the 1-1 tie. One thing that becomes obvious in looking through his game sheets is that when he plays, he plays 90 minutes. Looking at the rest of the Minnesota United defense, Boxall has the most minutes of the defenders, at 1,800 MLS minutes, while Francisco Calvo has 1,400 minutes, and Brent Kallman only has 1,024 minutes. The consistency and health that Boxall has will help United grow in the long-term.
Boxall’s experience really showed itself in the first 20 minutes of the LAFC game last Sunday. Against the likes of Latif Blessing, Boxall composed himself extraordinarily. The Minnesota back 3 were pushed back to hold there line on the 18 yard box on several occasions, leaving LAFC attackers space to dribble straight at the center backs. Boxall handled the Los Angeles Football Club attack wonderfully. His angles were brilliant, inviting the striker to attack him, but rarely being beat.
Obviously every game will not be like the LAFC one (though if they were, I’d be okay). Minnesota will face way stronger attacks or maybe the full LAFC attack, but Boxall has a certain patience that throws attackers off. His subtle angles make for an efficient defender who consistently plays full games. At 29 years old, we still have several more seasons left of him, and hopefully we re-sign his contract instead of spending too much money to bring in another defender to replace him. The big man in the back is quiet, often underrated, due to his patient (even boring at times) defense.