Photo by ISIphotos.com
By ADAM SERRANO
Hard work, dedication and a flair for the unexpected.
These traits have been the basis for Anthony Ampaipitakwong's game in his rise from youth standout in his native Texas to four years at Akron. They are also what he hopes to show the fans of the San Jose Earthquakes after being drafted by the club in the second round of the 2011 MLS SuperDraft.
In his new situation, the man affectionately known as "Ampai" has changed his persona a bit as he hopes to make an impact in the first year of his MLS career. Gone is his trademark, colorful mohawk, which is now replaced by a cleaner cut. What has not gone is desire to make an impact on the field.
During his time with the Zips, he was the leader, catalyst and focal point of the high-octane, pro-style offense; however, the midfielder admits that he relishes the chance to prove himself to his new teammates.
"It's been a big change like a 180, but it's something that I expected," Ampaipitakwong said. "I knew that I had to come in here and prove myself to earn a spot on this team. I know that I've got to start new."
Ampaipitakwong joins a motivated Earthquakes side that is eager to repeat the form that took them to the Eastern Conference finals in 2010. Drafted with the 33rd overall selection in the SuperDraft, the captain of the NCAA national champions was the last of seven Zips chosen.
Although he was picked to add punch to an offense that boasts 2010 MLS Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski and veteran winger Bobby Convey, Ampaipitakwong is ready to wait his turn and work his way up before becoming a major contributor for the club in his rookie year.
"The guys have been very welcoming to me and have been kicking me in the butt and treating me like a rookie to help me with the little aspects to improve my game, and I really appreciate that," Ampaipitakwong said. "I know that I've got to find the ball more, and it's my role to help the rhythm and tone of the game and just helping to set a rhythm for us moving forward."
The former Akron standout has impressed during the preseason and was instrumental in sparking the Earthquakes' attack in a recent scrimmage against Chivas USA. Given the responsibility of leading San Jose's attack in the center of the midfield, the rookie excelled creating attacks and working well off the ball.
With preparations for the Earthquakes' opening match against Real Salt Lake on March 19 approaching, it appears that head coach Frank Yallop has given the midfielder a bit more responsibility with the team. On Monday, Ampaipitakwong went the full 90 in the Earthquakes' 3-0 scrimmage victory over the University of California.
Although he has enjoyed success in preseason, Ampaipitakwong will have a difficult climb to earn consistent minutes in the middle of the pitch, with the Earthquakes having a number of options from which to choose.
With the likes of Jamaican playmaker Khari Stephenson, who was re-signed this week, to midfield stalwart Andre Luiz, who is recovering from injury, among those ahead of him on the depth chart, Ampaipitakwong has his work cut out; however, true to form, he is motivated and ready to perform any role.
"When I come into the game, I need to keep a one-two-touch to just keep the ball rolling," Ampaipitakwong said. "We've got to attack as a team, but I want to be able to put teams on their heels a little bit."
AMPAI will be awesome and the Bay Area loves young soccer talent like that. In prior seasons it was players like Shea Salinas and Quincy Amarikwa that excited the fans. Hopefully Ampai will progress well on the Earthquakes and stay injury free.
I’m very excited to see Opara healthy again – thought he was an impact player before he got injured last year
Here’s hoping Ampai gets in close with the Bay Area’s Thai community. Could he be the greatest Thai athlete in the world? I wonder if he can play soccer volleyball?
I wanna see what his name is gonna look like on the back of his jersey
I think this kid has what it takes. He’s got that simmering desire, technical quality and flair. I’m going out on a limb: in 3 years, he’ll be transitioning to a bigger league similar to what Holden has done.
I cannot wait to hear his name incorporated into a song. San Jose should sponsor a contest.
It was so much fun watching him play for Akron, I really look forward to seeing him get lots of time and take over a leading role for the Earthquakes. He is the kind of player that can transform a game.