Despite adversity, Boughton patient for next pro chance
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • May 10, 2012 @ 9:20am
The path to the professional ranks is smooth—almost seamless—for some athletes. U.S. soccer stars like Landon Donovan and Juan Agudelo were recognized early for their talent, groomed as “saviors” of the sport.
For others, the route to a professional career is roadblocked by adversity—unexpected cuts, untimely injuries and personal setbacks can waylay the most promising of careers.
FC Buffalo’s Gary Boughton is a legend in Western New York’s recent soccer history. The electrifying midfielder, a product of Lancaster High School and Medaille College, shattered the NCAA career assist record with 82 over an illustrious four years that included four straight AMCC titles and an appearance in the NCAA D3 Sweet 16.
Working diligently to shed the label of “undersized small school star,” Boughton’s unrivaled quickness and vision compensated enough to garner professional interest.
Last summer, Boughton’s professional career was humming along—he’d been signed by FC New York, his first professional contract, played against French legend Thierry Henry in a scrimmage with the New York Red Bulls and even scored for FC New York as a substitute against Dayton.
Bizarrely, the club parted ways with the United Soccer League PRO division and ceased its tenure as a professional soccer team.
“It was shocking,” Boughton explained, “because establishing a pro club in New York City had been in the works for a few years. I figured, once [FC New York] was there, it would be sustainable, and I was hoping to stay. It was a privilege to play in NYC.”
Boughton’s professional dreams stayed alive, as he was invited to train with Sporting Kansas City, a Major League Soccer side, at the conclusion of the 2011 season. The club even flew Boughton out to play in a reserve match, and again, the future looked bright for the local product.
After the campaign, however, Boughton learned he wouldn’t be invited to training camp with Sporting Kansas City.
“It was tough,” Boughton admitted. “I learned last minute [that I wasn’t in their plans.] I’ve experienced a lot of ‘ups,’ but also a lot of ‘downs,’ and found that how you handle adversity makes you the individual that you are.”
In the fall, Boughton returned as an assistant coach for the Erie Community College Kats men’s soccer program, his second season on the bench.
The winter proved an encouraging stretch for the 23-year-old, as Boughton latched on with the expansion Rochester Lancers of the Major Indoor Soccer League. Playing alongside former Buffalo Blizzard star Doug Miller—now 43-years-old—was a personal highlight and handling the close quarters of a boarded indoor field sharpened Boughton’s technical ability.
“There was really no space to make up for a bad first touch,” he explained. “You really have to think a few steps ahead [when you’re receiving the ball.]”
Boughton parlayed his success with the Lancers—eight goals and seven assists for 23 points, good for seventh on the team—into a tryout for the USL PRO’s Rochester Rhinos. In another shocking turn of events, Boughton was one of Jesse Myers’ final cuts, although he’s welcome to continue to train with the squad.
“The [Rhinos’] staff does like me as a player,” Boughton said, “but signing me wasn’t an option for them right now. I’m just trying to stay a viable option.”
To remain sharp, Boughton will open the season with the Blitzers of the NPSL while training regularly with the Rhinos. For Dan Krzyzanowicz’s side—his former college coach at Medaille—Boughton will likely serve as a central midfielder in a 4-3-3 or a wing in a 4-4-2 alignment, and he’s eyeing the captain’s armband.
With full understanding that Boughton probably won’t be a Blitzer for long, it’ll be a blessing for the Buffalo area to see the gifted midfielder back in action at 7 p.m. Sunday at Robert E. Rich All-High Stadium. If anything, he’s an underdog athlete from an underdog city, a talented individual deserving of another professional chance.
(Header photo credit: Scott Cordaro Photography)