Designated Player

With foundation in place, Buksa enters 2021 “a better player compared to last year”

Adam Buksa vs. Columbus Crew SC (2020, Colonial)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The 2020 season presented challenges across Major League Soccer, from a sudden four-month hiatus, to a never-before-seen bubble environment in Florida, to a truncated league schedule, and all while adjusting to restrictive COVID-19 protocols on a daily basis.

Those obstacles tested the resolve of even the most veteran MLS players, so they were doubly difficult for those new to the league, adjusting to an unfamiliar country, new teammates, and an entirely different lifestyle all in the midst of a pandemic that flipped any semblance of normalcy upside down.

Adam Buksa was one of those players, joining the New England Revolution for the 2020 campaign after beginning his professional career in his native Poland. The 24-year-old kicked off his Revolution career in fine fashion with a goal on his home debut on March 7, but just days later the season was paused and he was forced – like all of us – into isolation and away from the game for months.

It’s not an experience Buksa is eager to repeat, but as he looks ahead to 2021, he is confident that the trials and tribulations of last season have provided a solid foundation to build upon in New England.

“I think last year was very unpredictable in many ways, but I think it was a year full of experience,” Buksa said. “I’m definitely happy to have signed with the Revolution. I think right now, I’m a better player compared to last year. I’m looking forward to starting [2021] with a better attitude, better knowledge of the league, of my teammates, of the coaching staff. I’m definitely thinking only in a positive way for what’s coming next.”

Sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena agrees with Buksa’s assessment, noting the No. 9’s improvement throughout the 2020 season, culminating with a string of solid performances in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. Buksa totaled seven goals and two assists in 27 appearances last year, including a massive playoff goal vs. Philadelphia and a role in two goals against Orlando City SC.

The return of playmaker Carles Gil helped spark Buksa’s postseason performances, but it was also clear that the Polish striker simply became more and more comfortable as his time in MLS progressed.

“You can see already in the week or so he’s been here in preseason, he looks a lot more comfortable,” Arena said of Buksa, whose arrival to Revs camp was delayed slightly because of COVID-19 travel restrictions. “He understands what we’re asking of him and he’s a hard worker, so I think we should see certainly improvement in 2021.”

Perhaps the best judge of Buksa’s evolution is teammate and center back Andrew Farrell, who spends most days squaring up against the 6-foot-3 forward on the training ground. Farrell noted Buksa’s size and movement, reiterating the sentiment that he’ll be an improved player in 2021 with a year under his belt and additional attacking pieces operating around him.

“He’s really good in the box, makes good runs, post-up play,” Farrell said of Buksa. “He can shoot with both feet as we saw in the game against Nashville last year when he scored with his right. A really good left foot, he’s good in the air. It’s a good thing to be annoying as a forward. He’s annoying. He’s always putting you under pressure and scoring goals, and that’s what you want.

“I think even another year under his belt here, getting accustomed to the way this league is and how we want to play in a year with all the guys, he’s going to have a bigger and better year.”

There were signs that Buksa was settling into his new surroundings late last season – in addition to his goal against Philadelphia, he hit the woodwork a remarkable four times in four playoff games – and with a foundation to build upon, he can’t wait to get the 2021 season rolling. First up, that includes several preseason matches against the LA Galaxy and LAFC during the Revs’ trip to the West Coast from March 24 to April 10.

“It took some time for me to adapt in these special and crazy circumstances that we had last year,” Buksa said. “But there’s nothing more like training now, getting in my fitness level right now, and I just can’t wait for the start of the league.”