If you’re reading this, please take a moment to put your hands together for Michael Boxall.
It’s applause for what he’s done for this club on the field: leading by example, showing up solid day in and day out and being a catalyst for growth. And it’s applause for what he’s done for this club and community off the field as well: being a constant resource, getting incredibly involved and making a difference.
But really, it’s applause for being the first to hit the 100 appearances for MNUFC in MLS milestone for this club. A milestone that says an incredible amount about a player, no matter how humble they are. The numbers speak!
First of all, by the numbers, it quite literally means Boxall has played a lot of soccer in an MNUFC kit. He has clocked in 8,607 minutes for the Loons and, while we’re talking kits, he has sported all six. When he signed with Minnesota United on July 12, 2017 in its inaugural season, he started 12 of 12 games to close out the season. Every season after that – including the current 2021 season – he followed the pattern and started every game he played.
Why MNUFC in the first place?
“We were in South Africa at the same time,” said Boxall. “Libby [Boxall] and I had just had Maxwell [Boxall]. I think South Africa has a dangerous reputation for a reason. We never saw anything, but we thought that if there was an opportunity to go to somewhere that might be a little bit safer, then we would jump at it. I think the football world is smaller than people might think. With a few calls and texts here and there, there was a bit of interest from Minnesota. We looked into it and were more than happy to jump at the opportunity. We were excited at what the project that Dr. McGuire and the owners were building, so we wanted to be a part of that.”
The project is one that can be described as resilient, hopeful, heartbreaking, exciting and so many other adjectives I’m sure are whizzing around your head. It’s a project Michael Boxall has been a part of since he arrived, but he also knows the foundations were laid years before he got here.
“I think there’s a lot of important players in this club’s history before the whole MLS era who got all the loyal fans coming out to Blaine for the games before they were in MLS,” said Boxall. “Just to help build that culture from the start. So, you can’t take that away from those players. But I think kind of coming the first year in MLS and kind of seeing how it’s grown. See the vision of the leaders of the club, and how it’s transpired through those tough years, ’17 and ’18 and to eventually move into Allianz Field and see the growth around the training ground as well. I mean, it’s cool to be a part of and cool to help push it along. Obviously, we’re far from done now. We just need to keep grinding every day to make sure we improve on yesterday.”
Throughout his tenure, Boxall has honestly looked at himself and asked not only how he can improve personally, but what he can do within the team to help the squad improve. There have been many steps in the right direction and many miles on the legs, but there’s still unfinished business.
“We need to win something for this club,” said Boxall. “I think because we haven’t done that yet, there’s nothing really to look back on, nothing, like, tangible that we can hold up and say, hey, we won this. We got this. What I love about this club is the connection with the fans that the players – and the fans – feel as well. Although, that would be here no matter who is wearing my jersey, whether I’m here or not. I think the fanbase here is so loyal and really appreciate this team and its values.”
The community and the club alike have created a sense of home for Boxall. From the first game back in 2017, the community was a welcoming one. It was inclusive. It was one that he not only wanted to be a part of, but became a part of by getting to know supporters and people that represent what the Twin Cities and the state is all about.
It’s also a community that feels like home for his wife, Libby, and two children. His children are growing up here, and it has truly become their home.
One hundred may just be a number that is now attached to Michael Boxall’s name, but on a deeper level it represents four years immersed in the MNUFC community.
“Maybe I’m the first to hit 100 appearances, but I think with some of the younger talent we have, if they’re able to keep everyone here, I think there’s going to be a lot more after me,” said Boxall. “A lot of quality here. Great guys off the field, too. I might be the first, but there’s certainly going to be many, many more.”
As a club, we say Loonesota isn’t a place or a thing, it’s a state of mind. When you really think about that, that state of mind is bringing the community to life. Not only has Boxall found his place as an integral part of the sports landscape here, we all collectively have found our home in Michael Boxall over these last four years and his 100 games as a Loon.