AMPAIPITAKWONG'S BURIRAM JOURNEY
After parting ways with San Jose Earthquakes earlier this year, Anthony Ampaipitakwong excited for his future with Buriram United in Thailand after getting off to a great start.
Ampaipitakwong, 24, signed a two and a half year contract with Buriram United of the Thai Premier League in July and he has already broken into the team's starting lineup. On August 5, he scored his first ever Premier League goal in a 2-1 win over TOT.
Just a few months ago, Ampaipitakwong knew very little about the league and thought a move to Thailand would be a risky move. So far, he has enjoyed his transition to Thailand.
"At the beginning of the MLS season I was contacted by my agent because one of the top teams in Thailand wanted me to play for them," Ampaipitakwong told YA. "At first I was hesitant because I have never been to Thailand and now I would live there for some time. After some research and watching their style of play, I became much more comfortable with my decision."
Ampaipitakwong's father is from Thailand but he himself has spent his whole youth career developing in the United States. He was born in Texas and as a teenager he developed US Soccer's residency program in Bradenton and was a part of the US U-17 national team.
He played NCAA soccer with Akron and was a key part of the Zip's team that won the 2010 national championship. In 2011 he was drafted by San Jose with the 33rd overall pick in the MLS Superdraft.
In moving to the Thai Premier League, Ampaipitakwong believes that he is joining a league that is similar to MLS.
"Thailand's League has many similarities to MLS in the style of playing and possession," Ampaipitakwong explained. "But just imagine playing in Houston during the hot summer every game. It is hot and humid here! Fitness was my first issue when I arrived because running in this heat is much different than the perfect weather in San Jose. I am happy that the games are at night."
When Ampaipitakwong joined Buriram United, the club was in the middle of their season. Last season in 2011, they ran away with the Premier League title finishing with 85 points through 34 games. That was 16 points better than second place Chonburi.
In the 2012, Buriram look unlikely to repeat. Through 22 games they sit in third place with 39 points. They trail league leaders Muang Thong United by 17 points. Only the league champions will advance to the AFC Champions League.
Despite the 17 point deficit, Ampaipitakwong does not feel that Buriram are out of reach of contenting for the title.
"Unfortunately, I came in when Buriram was some points behind the first place Muang Thong," Ampaipitakwong said. "But it still isn't out of reach. There are still a bunch of games left and you never know what can happen. Aside from the regular season, Buriram is in the FA Cup and also the Toyota Cup. There are 1-2 games every week, so my main goal is to stay healthy and continue to contribute to Buriram and hopefully win some trophies this year."
Ampaipitakwong is already part of Buriram's starting lineup. He has started the last six games and he picked up an assist in his first game.
He is optimistic for his future there because he is playing the same position and same style as he did at Arkon where he scored 17 goals along with 30 assists in 93 games.
"I am playing attacking mid and basically finding the ball in gaps," Ampaipitakwong said of his role at Buriram. "[I am playing ] behind the striker [where I] am very comfortable because that is where I played four years at Akron. My fitness is getting better every game so I will continue to improve."
2012 has been an transitional year for Ampaipitakwong as he has settled outside United States for the first time in his career. He does not know where the future will take him beyond Thailand but a return home someday is not out of the question either.
"I am not sure where my future will take me because, to be honest, I never thought I would be here playing in Thailand," Ampaipitakwong concluded. "When you are doing well, good things can happen. Right now my mindset is continuing to do everything I can to help this club win games and trophies. But the United States is where I have lived my entire life, so one day it wouldn't be bad to come back."