Hermann Trophy Runner-Up Looks Forward to Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft After Signing League Contract in December
Forward Ryan Finley, a former Development Academy player for PDA and the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team Residency Program, has had a whirlwind 2012. The Notre Dame senior finished runner-up in the Hermann Trophy voting and in December he signed a contract with Major League Soccer.
Now all that remains is a destination as he and many other professional hopefuls look forward to the 2013 MLS SuperDraft on Thursday (noon ET; ESPN3, mlssoccer.com) at the NSCAA Convention in Indianapolis, Ind.
“It’s been a really exciting year, and I’ve been blessed to play the past two years at Notre Dame under Bobby Clark,” Finley said. “I have really good friends there and great teammates. Coach Clark says that with team success comes individual success. We had a great team season, and obviously all of the awards wouldn’t have come about without my teammates, to be in the position I’m in because of those guys.”
Finley also took part in the recent MLS Combine in Florida, though he had to miss the first day because he was in attendance for the Hermann Trophy presentation, which awarded Maryland’s Patrick Mullins with the top collegiate honor. Finley flew into Florida on Saturday and joined the Combine activities Sunday.
“It was a great experience to get better from,” said Finley, who scored on a penalty kick during Tuesday’s Combine game. “The games are high intensity because you have 50-some players there striving to get to the next level. It was a really humbling experience to be there.”
During an off day at the Combine, Finley said he met with nine MLS teams. According to many mock drafts, Finley is pegged for a first-round selection on Thursday.
The Lumberton, N.J., native spent a year and a half with New Jersey-based PDA, preceded by an 18-month stretch in Bradenton, Fla., with the U.S. U-17 Residency Program.
“In Residency, some kids question going down there because they think they’re ‘losing the normal teenage childhood,’ but to be honest I would not have traded those 18 months down there for anything else,” Finley said. “It was one of the best times in my life and I met some people I’ve continued to stay in touch with. It shaped me as a player, from the weights, to the morning runs, practice, school and playing again at night. It was the best spot to get better at my game.”
Finley then played for PDA’s Academy team, whose U-17/18 group advanced to Finals Week in 2009.
“I spent a year and a half there with [coaches] John Murphy and Sam Nellins, and it was a great experience,” Finley said. “It was a pretty easy transition from Residency to the Academy and it was a great setup. The games and training sessions at PDA were a great setup because everyone is hungry and trying to get good games and training sessions, because everyone is hungry and trying to get to advance their game further.
“I continue to chat with former Academy teammates over Facebook and recall some of my goals being a forward. But the most important thing were the relationships with the other players, as well as John Murphy, in particular, who was in my corner when I was looking to transfer [from Duke to Notre Dame]. I’m blessed to have been a part of that and have those types of relationships.”
On preparing for MLS: “I’ve spent a good deal of time between the college season and the Combine working with James Galanis, my trainer in New Jersey (who has also trained U.S. Women’s National Team midfielder Carli Lloyd), in preparing for the Combine to make sure my touches were right. I was lucky to sign a contract before the Combine because that took some of the pressure off and I could play relaxed and have fun.”
On the U-13/U-14 Academy launching later this fall: “I think that’s great. I know over in Europe they take in kids at an early age, and the earlier the players can be involved in the Academy the better. I had a great experience with the Academy and I wish I would have had a U-13/U-14 age group to help me in the right direction. Those will be some lucky kids.”