For the past year, Ryan Kinne’s soccer career was on the brink. He was released by the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer in March 2012, just before the start of the season. Professional rosters throughout North America were, by that time, set and payrolls tight.
The Naugatuck native, who forged an All-American career at Monmouth University before becoming a third-round draft pick in 2011 by the Revs, was a player without a pitch.
For 10 months Kinne trained on his own, stayed as near match-fit as one can without a full-time soccer job, and sought a second chance.
And it came.
Kinne is back in professional soccer, starting in the midfield for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, a USL PRO team in the United Soccer League. The Riverhounds have a new 3,500-seat stadium and, as Kinne noted, “there is a soccer buzz in the city.”
For Kinne, Pittsburgh is on the road he wants to travel. For a long time, he was off-road without a map.
“It was a tough nine or 10 months,” Kinne admitted. “I have an agent, and he was putting my name out there. Things came up and fell through.”
He hoped for a shot in Europe, but that transfer window came and went last summer. Kinne played semi-pro with the Connecticut Football Club, trained and waited.
“That’s the most difficult part of (soccer),” Kinne said. “It is hard to get match-fit and hard to keep that motivation and go out and do the fitness every day. It was a tough couple of months, but I pushed through it, with the end goal to get back here and hopefully use this season as a springboard.”
USL PRO and the North American Soccer League are the pro tiers beneath MLS. In the Riverhounds’ first game, a scoreless draw with Richmond on April 6, four players from DC United played on loan from the MLS club. This is a superb level of soccer.
Kinne fired a match-high seven shots nearly scored the only goal when, in the 64th minute, his 30-yard strike slammed off the crossbar.
“I created some chances and hit a crossbar,” he said. “I hope to have a good year and play well enough to get called back up, or come back next year. Whatever happens, happens.”
Kinne is second on the squad with 10 shots and has played in four of the team’s five games. Pittsburgh is 0-4-1 through its first month of the season and plays two games on the west coast this weekend: Friday at Phoenix and Sunday at Los Angeles.
Presently, the Riverhounds do not have an MLS affiliation, but they do have that dandy new $7 million stadium, which sits on the Monongahela River alongside the iconic Fort Pitt Bridge, with breathtaking views of the Steel City skyline, if you dare take your eyes off the field.
It is the perfect place to jumpstart a career.
“I am with a good team at a good level,” Kinne said. “It has been a long year. The toughest part was knowing I was good enough to contribute at some level. My time with the Revs was tough. I never got a true opportunity. Now, it is all about getting back to that level and proving I can play there.”
If you remember Kinne from his all-state days at Naugatuck, you recall a driven player with an all-business attitude. Does he have fun out there?
“I laugh a lot around the guys,” Kinne said. “But not on the field. I want to be the best every time I take the field. Why do something if you don’t want to be the best at it?”
Kinne once said he will play soccer until someone tears the uniform off his back. Well, last year, that’s what the Revolution did. But in Pittsburgh he found a uniform, No. 16, that fits just fine.
“I have come out to Pittsburgh to a good squad and a talented group of kids,” said Kinne, just 23. “They got me into that competitive mode again. I am back in that competitive mindset.”
That’s good news for the Riverhounds and, finally, good news for Kinne.