Boxall goes No. 1 in MLS Supplemental Draft

Michael Boxall, the Big West Defender of the Year, will bring toughness and savvy to the back line of the Vancouver Whitecaps. (Photo by Tony Mastres)

UCSB’s Michael Boxall was the No. 1 pick in Major League Soccer’s Supplemental Draft on Tuesday, taken by the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps.

A rugged central defender, Boxall is the 20th UCSB player to be drafted by the MLS in the past nine years and the eighth to go in the Supplemental Draft.

As a senior, he was named the Big West Defensive Player of the Year and earn third-team All-American honors. He spearheaded a Gaucho defense that allowed just 17 goals and posted 17 shutouts.

A native of Auckland, New Zealand, the 6-2, 200-pound Boxall brings a wealth of international experience to Vancouver. He played for the Kiwis at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China and has represented his country on the U-20 and senior national teams. He earned two caps with the All Whites senior squad during the 2006 Agribank Cup in Vietnam.

Considered by some soccer pundits as a possible second-round pick in last week’s SuperDraft, Boxall’s stock dropped after his play at the MLS Player Combine. The fact he is an international player also factored into teams passing on him.

Nevertheless, his toughness and physical presence on the backline figure to suit him well in the MLS.

“I’m really excited for the opportunity up in Vancouver. From everything I’ve heard about it, it’s a great place,” said Boxall. “I have a lot to prove. I am excited about the opportunity to show what I can do to help the Whitecaps succeed.”

Boxall joins Michael Tetteh as 2011 MLS draftees from UCSB. Tetteh, a junior leftback who signed a Generation adidas contract, was the 20th overall pick (second pick of the second round) by the Seattle Sounders in last week’s three-round MLS SuperDraft.

Admittedly disappointed about not being picked in the SuperDraft, Boxall said Tuesday, “In the end, it really doesn’t matter. I have the same opportunity as the other guys that got picked on Thursday to prove my worth with the team and hopefully get signed.”?

UCSB currently has five former players active in the MLS: Chris Pontius (D.C. United), Andy Iro (Columbus Crew), Eric Avila (FC Dallas), Kyle Reynish (Real Salt Lake) and Dan Kennedy (Chivas USA). Both Reynish and Kennedy were drafted in the supplemental rounds.

Boxall joins a club with a rich soccer tradition in North America. The Whitecaps were part of the old North American Soccer League. Their inaugural season was 1974 and they were league champions in 1979. When the league folded, the franchise joined the Canadian Soccer League and won four straight titles.

Before becoming a MLS franchise, the club played in the A-League, (winning two titles) United Soccer Leagues First Division and U.S. Soccer Federation’s D-2 Pro League.

Asked if he had other professional options overseas, Boxall said it’s all about playing in the MLS.

“First and foremost, I’m looking forward to this time. It’s been my goal for quite some time now. The way it has worked out, it actually worked out even better for me. I’m really excited.”