Photo by Daniel Mick.

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A Closer Look at New Loons: Sam Nicholson and Michael Boxall

by on 13 July 2017

Minnesota United FC limped into the international break and transfer window sorely in need of reinforcements. They’ve kicked off their expected three to four signings with two internationals: young winger Sam Nicholson and experienced defender Michael Boxall. FiftyFive.One caught up with both of the new signings and coach Adrian Heath at the Wednesday practice in Blaine, Minn.

For coach Heath, the most important thing for the team is to have more bodies with players that can compete for starting positions, which is what he feels they have done with their two signings. The coach is still hoping for more signings, and with assistant Ian Fuller in Ghana, it’s possible Minnesota could see more international signings before the transfer window closes.

Sam Nicholson

Photo by Daniel Mick.

Sam Nicholson being interviewed after practice. Photo by Daniel Mick.

Sam Nicholson is exactly the type of player Minnesota should be signing in their first season in MLS: young, hungry, and ready to contribute. Without an academy or a USL side, Minnesota doesn’t have a space to give players minutes who can’t play a role in the first team.

“I’m loving it here so far. It’s a nice change and a nice challenge.”
Sam Nicholson

Coach Adrian Heath likes what he’s seen of him so far: “I think he’s been excellent. He’s done exactly what we thought we were getting. He’s a wide guy who can play underneath or on both sides. He’s very direct, he can beat people one-on-one off the dribble. Looks like he’s got a goal in him and he’s got two good feet.”

For Nicholson, he’s “loving it” here due to the welcome he’s received. “You want to know you are wanted somewhere. It was an easy option for me. When I looked at the salaries and stuff, I knew I wanted to come here.“

Joining the team during his former team Heart of Midlothian’s offseason, he’s still working to catch up to the rest of the players in the middle of their season. “I think I’ve got to work and get myself up to the same level as everyone else in terms of fitness because I’ve been off.”

Nicholson will likely have his first real test this Saturday in Minnesota’s friendly against Atlas FC.

Michael Boxall

Photo by Daniel Mick.

New Zealand international Michael Boxall. Photo by Daniel Mick.

Michael Boxall comes to Minnesota with some questions hanging over him. He was released in 2012 by the Vancouver Whitecaps after only featuring in two games that spring for the MLS side, and went on to play in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa as well as receiving 27 caps with his native New Zealand All-Whites.

“Great setup. All the boys seem top notch. Adrian seems to be a top gaffer. Can’t wait to get started. ”
Michael Boxall

Coach Heath’s friendship with the New Zealand coach Anthony Hudson is what helped to sell him on bringing Boxall back to MLS. “[Boxall] is playing international football which gives you a good barometer of the level he’s playing at. I know the coach of New Zealand really well and he’s said he’s gotten better and better over the last two or three years. A lot of the issues that maybe people thought he had, he’s figured them out.”

For Boxall, it was his time in South Africa that helped him develop as a player. In South Africa, there were “so many talented players that are allowed to freely express themselves. That’s where, when I was playing right back there you actually have to really defend one-on-one because you’ve got center backs and defenders who can dribble as well as wingers over there. I think that definitely helped me develop as a player.”

For the team, the signing looks to help shore up a defense that is still on pace to allow the most goals in a season. The twenty-eight-year-old will compete for minutes as both a right back and as a center back.

As far as playing this weekend against Atlas, that looks doubtful. He’s still not training fully with the team. “I just flew in over the weekend, so the legs aren’t quite here yet, body clock still somewhere over the Atlantic.”


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  • Benjamin MacKenzie

    I’m admittedly excited for these two. I hope they can challenge for starts and enhance the team, but, bare minimum, they seem to raise the quality of our bench tremendously.

  • MmattN

    I had no idea Boxall could play out on the right, good to see.