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Mike Ryan, The First Coach of the U.S. WNT Passes Away at 77

Women’s Soccer Pioneer Coached the First Four Matches in U.S. WNT History

CHICAGO (Nov. 23, 2012) — Mike Ryan, the first head coach of the U.S. Soccer Women’s National Team, passed away last Tuesday morning at his home in Seattle after a long illness. He was 77.

“Mike Ryan was there at the very beginning of what has become the most successful women’s international soccer program in the world and his contribution will never be forgotten,” said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati. “He dedicated his life to soccer and working with young people and I’m sure he was very proud to see them grow into great people and players, just as he was proud to see the Women’s National Team grow from its infancy to win World Cups and Olympic gold medals.”

Ryan coached the first four matches in U.S. Women’s National Team history, taking the team to Italy in August of 1985. On Aug. 18, 1985, the USA would play its first-ever official international match, a 1-0 loss to Italy. He also coached two games against Denmark, the first of which featured the USA’s first-ever draw (2-2) and first-ever goals, scored by Michelle Akers and Emily Pickering, as well as a match against England.

Those would only games for the U.S. Women in 1985, and Anson Dorrance took over the team in 1986.

"What I loved about Mike Ryan is the standard he set for the adult game in the United States,” said Dorrance. “The elite teams that he coached in Seattle played with a great sophistication and his contributions to the American game are the bedrock of our assault internationally. I respected him as a coach and appreciated everything he did for the evolution of our game."

Ryan, who was originally from Dublin, Ireland, immigrated to the United States at the age of 23 in the late 1950s, landing in New York. He served in the U.S. Army, did a tour in Germany and was stationed in Fort Lewis, Washington. He settled in Seattle, where he would make his home and become a pioneer for the game in the Pacific Northwest. In the early years of women’s soccer in the 1980s, many of the top players in the country came from the strong women’s club program in Washington, and as Ryan was involved in women’s soccer in the area, he was tabbed to lead the first U.S. Women’s National Team.

Ryan coached for five decades in the Washington area and helped start the men’s soccer program at the University of Washington. His last coaching stint was with the Nathan Hale High School girls’ soccer team.