Andrew Boyens couldn’t get the smile off of his face on Monday afternoon at the Red Bulls’ training facility at Montclair State University. His watch was still set an hour back from traveling, but Boyens termed his time in South Africa at the World Cup “one of the best moments of my life.”
New Zealand was ousted from the first round after earning three draws but surprised the world with their results.
On Tuesday night, Boyens was in the starting XI for head coach Hans Backe as the Red Bulls travelled to central Pennsylvania to play in the U.S. Open Cup against a USL-2 side. Not quite the fan and media circus Boyens had been living in the past month.
“From South Africa to Harrisburg in a couple days,” Boyens laughingly told MLSSoccer.com.
New Zealand earned global respect with their performance, including a gutsy tie with defending World Cup winners Italy. Boyens was pleased that people could see “that we can play the game and at a very high level too.” He said he felt an enormous sense of pride at being a part of the team and watching the matches unfold.
He credits the team’s spirit for the results.
“We’re all wonderful mates on the team,” Boyens said. “We got along really well. I think people saw that in how we played, in how we played for each other.”
Boyens said that while away in South Africa, he closely monitored the MLS season, receiving updates from teammates and following along with the Red Bulls’ progress online. He was excited to see the team turn things and win two matches before the stop in play for the World Cup. There is no South Africa hangover for Boyens, who is glad to be back.
“It’s really good to be here, we have a wonderful club and are having such a great season,” Boyens said. “This is a great group of guys too, and it’s good to be back.”
The central defender is hopeful that perhaps some Kiwis did well enough to play themselves into position for European contracts … or MLS.
“That’s one thing I’ve preached to the guys on the team, to come over here,” Boyens said. “This is a good system for us to play and develop – from college on to MLS – it’s a good system. I think more players would benefit from it.”
Boyens did say that the trip to South Africa changed his view and outlook on the world at large.
While staying in what he called “an absolutely outstanding hotel” during the team’s stay in South Africa, Boyens couldn’t help but notice the abject poverty that surrounded him. Boyens would often notice the slums and shanty towns when the team bussed to their group matches. He saw how people lived on the “other side” and was struck with emotion.
“It made me appreciate so much more what I have as a professional athlete and how I live,” Boyens said. “I saw how others lived, especially those children, and I just paused to think about my own life and how blessed I really am.”
Kristian Dyer is a reporter for MLSSoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs. He can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012