2013-04-24 / Sports

Richmond Kickers sign Midlothian’s Ryan Taylor

By Jim McConnell

Midlothian High alumnus Ryan Taylor makes a diving save during a recent training session with the Richmond Kickers. Taylor signed with the local soccer club earlier this month. Midlothian High alumnus Ryan Taylor makes a diving save during a recent training session with the Richmond Kickers. Taylor signed with the local soccer club earlier this month. Five years of preparation and perseverance helped Ryan Taylor become one of the top goalkeepers in the Big South Conference. Now the former Midlothian High student is trying to prove himself all over again in professional soccer.

Taylor, who grew up attending Richmond Kickers games with his parents, came home after graduating from Radford University in December and signed a contract with the Kickers earlier this month.

“It’s a positive development to see another homegrown player sign with the Kickers,” said Leigh Cowlishaw, director of soccer for the Kickers. “Ryan has worked extremely hard through preseason, impressing in both training and games. He thoroughly deserves this opportunity.”

Taylor briefly considered pursuing a master’s degree in physical therapy, but said it was “a really easy decision” to pass up graduate school and begin a pro career in the only sport he’s ever played.

“I knew it would be something I’d regret if I didn’t at least give it a try,” he added. “I love soccer and I want to play as long as I can. I can always go back to school later.”

Taylor played club soccer for FC Richmond and was a 2008 first-team all-Dominion District selection as a senior at Midlothian High School.

He became Radford’s No. 1 goalkeeper in his sophomore season, but sat out most of the next season as a medical redshirt after suffering a broken arm. His hard work to come back from that injury paid off as he started 14 games and recorded a career-high four shutouts in 2011.

After the final game of the 2011 campaign, Radford coach Marc Reeves told Taylor that he had the talent to play professional soccer and challenged him to pursue that goal.

Taylor responded by playing every minute of Radford’s 18 games as a senior, posting the third-best goals-against average (0.99) in the Big South. He earned both all-conference and all-academic honors.

“We know how hard Ryan has worked, and that he truly values the opportunity to continue playing,” Reeves said in a Radford press release. “Ryan was a first class student-athlete who excelled both on and off the field. His commitment to the team, work ethic, leadership and daily drive to improve and maximize his potential are qualities we look to instill in all our players.”

Being one of the “big men on campus” at Radford didn’t help Taylor during tryouts with professional clubs in Florida and Minnesota last winter. Neither extended a contract offer and he was contemplating his next move when his hometown team offered an opportunity to participate in preseason training.

The Kickers had replaced both of the goalkeepers from their 2012 squad, most notably the retired Ronnie Pascale, who had become a fan favorite during his 13 years in Richmond.

Rather than obsess over the challenge of filling Pascale’s enormous shoes, Taylor took the attitude that he had to prove himself on a daily basis – and that hasn’t changed since he signed a contract.

“I’m trying to earn the coaches’ trust and prove to them that I’ll do things the right way,” he said. “To do that, you have to show up with the attitude that you’re going to get better at some part of your game every day.”

Taylor served as the backup to veteran Andrew Dykstra in each of the Kickers’ first two matches this season and acknowledged that not seeing his name in the starting lineup is a “huge transition.”

That’s exacerbated by the fact that he still has so many friends and family members in the Richmond area who want to come out and watch him play – including his parents, who traveled to all 18 of Radford’s games during his senior season.

“I have to explain to them that I’m a rookie,” Taylor added. “We have a guy with six or seven years of experience on this team, so I’m not necessarily going to play.”

Taylor noted that regardless of who starts, it’s important for all three of the Kickers’ goalkeepers to support each other “because that creates a better atmosphere for everybody.”

“You don’t want to get a spot on the field because the other guy messed up,” he said. “You want to earn it by stepping up and playing better.”

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