Vancouver Whitecaps FC opted to go international with the first pick in the 2011 MLS Supplemental Draft on Tuesday, nabbing New Zealand native Michael Boxall out of the University of California, Santa Barbara.
The club also selected Canadian midfielder Joe Anderson from Coastal Carolina University and American defender Santiago Bedoya from Northeastern University.
This will not be Boxall’s first trip to Canada. The 6-foot-2 defender played for the All Whites at the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup, starting all three matches in the prestigious youth tournament. The 22-year-old also suited up for New Zeaand's U-23 national team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and has two caps with his country's senior national squad.
“With him having Olympic and national team experience for New Zealand, we felt like he’s a guy that had good qualities, being a big imposing center back,” Whitecaps FC director of soccer operations Tom Soehn said of the team’s first pick.
WATCH: Michael Boxall highlights
Working against Boxall, perhaps, is the fact that he would count on the roster as an international player (although the club has yet to officially use an international slot). As it currently stands, no more than 10 places on the roster will go to players who are not Canadian or American.
“It’s always a concern because you only have so many international slots,” explained Soehn. “Ultimately, though, it will be up to him to prove that he deserves to have one of those spots. It does make it more difficult, but it’s no different than anyone else trying for one of those spots.”
The ‘Caps also picked up Brampton, Ontario, native Anderson with their 19th overall selection in hopes that the 24-year-old can translate his collegiate scoring prowess into MLS success.
The 6-foot-1 attacker led Coastal Carolina to the NCAA tournament this season with a hat-trick in the Big South Conference tournament championship game and netted 10 goals with one assist in two seasons at the school.
“Joe is more of a midfield/forward,” said Soehn. “He’s a big, tall, lanky player with good athleticism and good technique. There’s an upside to him and obviously he’s Canadian, which is a bonus.”
Bedoya was the Whitecaps’ final draft pick. Fans will likely recognize the name, as the 22-year-old is the younger brother of talented United States national team midfielder Alejandro Bedoya.
“He’s someone that was recommended to us pretty highly and they felt he could make it in the right environment,” said Soehn. “He’s an attacking left fullback, who gets his share of assists. He’s athletic, he’s got a good engine getting up and down the line, and he’s got a bloodline with his brother.”
Soehn insists that despite the fact that these three players were not selected during the MLS SuperDraft last week, they’ll be given the same opportunity as every other player at camp.
“Come first day of camp, they’re all starting equal,” emphasized Soehn. “You don’t evaluate where they were picked. They all show up the same and they have to prove themselves.”