FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – To appreciate the situation Zak Boggs presently finds himself in, you have set back the clock one year. Back to the 2010 preseason, when Boggs was just another non-contracted, high-numbered rookie trying to win a spot on the roster.
After his selection in the second round (31st overall) of the 2010 SuperDraft, Boggs entered camp at the bottom of the depth chart at the striker position. The players above him? Zach Schilawski, Kheli Dube, Kenny Mansally, and Edgaras Jankauskas, not mention an injured Taylor Twellman ansty to return. It was going to be heavy lifting for sure, but the former South Florida Bull kept it simple.
“I just wanted to come in and show what I could do,” said Boggs. “Get a spot, then keep it. That was my whole year. It was a learning experience. You’re always going to learn, but last year was a lot of learning.”
A lot of learning is putting it mildly. For Boggs, who worked his tail off to get an MLS contract and even freelanced at right back when needed, the past 365 days have been one-part dream, two-parts nightmare.
It began in earnest when he made his MLS debut on First Kick against the Los Angeles Galaxy as a 58th minute substitution for Kenny Mansally. Although L.A. blanked the the Revs, Boggs looked eager to add some bite to the attack.
A little over a month later, the Revolution, battered and bruised with numerous injuries, called upon Boggs to make his first MLS start on the road against the Conference-leading Columbus Crew in his native Ohio. Talk about getting thrown into the fire.
Instead of melting under the pressure, Boggs became a one-man wrecking crew. With family looking on, he scored two goals and nearly earned another. It was a homecoming to remember.
But, just as his name began to circulate around the league, his promising season suddenly crashed down. It started innocently enough during a mid-June training session.
“I went head to head with one of the guys,” said Boggs. “You know, I felt fine, and started the next game, and then just the typical (post-concussion symptoms set in).”
Days after his start against Chicago on June 26th, the nausea, dizziness, and fatigue set in. In fact, the symptoms became so serious that Boggs was sent to the hospital for tests.
“(Initially) none of the scans showed anything,” said Boggs. “Everything looked fine and I thought it was just a physiopathological thing and it’s all in (my) head. (But) not every concussion is the same. Some people have it worse than others.”
Those symptoms would sideline Boggs for the remainder of the season. What once began as a story book start to a professional career turned into a horror novel. Although he surely dreamed of a smoother season, all Boggs could do is put it in perspective.
“Stuff happens,” said Boggs. “You know, Matt Reis had a significant injury and so did Preston Burpo (last season), but they hung in there. They never got down and they were really positive, so that was something to take out of it.”
Boggs would need that positivity at the end of the season when the club declined its option on his contract. Suddenly, after only one, injury-plagued season, the promising prospect found himself without a deal.
All was not completely lost, however. The club invited him back this preseason on trial basis. Despite posting solid contributions to the team when he was healthy, the technical staff were essentially asking him to prove himself again, just as he had during his rookie year.
Most players might have taken the trial invitation as a slap in the face. But instead, Boggs has embraced the opportunity to return to the fold, even if it’s only on a tryout basis. He sees similarities between last year and this year, but he insists that it’s not the same this time around.
“There is a difference (this year) because the coaching staff already knows what I can do,” said Boggs. “Last year, there was alot of unknowns. I feel stronger and healthier this year so I’m ready to go and I think that can only help me.”
For Boggs, the kind of person who seems ooze genuine enthusiasm off the pitch, it’s a situation he has no hard feelings about. He still sports the high number (#33), and still aims to prove himself game by game, practice by practice, and moment by moment knowing that at any moment, it can be ripped right out of his grasp.
“It doesn’t matter what’s going on with the contract – I’m always going to work hard,” said Boggs. “You just can’t take anything for granted. You just have to be ready to go.”