From Stoke City to Duluth FC: Ryan Tyrer and the Journey from English Academies to the NPSL

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Born in the footballing epicenter of Liverpool, England, Ryan Tyrer made waves last summer when his debut season with NPSL side Duluth FC resulted in him being the club’s top goal scorer for the 2018 season and the first regional championship to ever arrive in the NPSL’s Midwest-North conference.

Despite his role as a center back, Tyrer would help his side both defensively and offensively, scoring four regular season goals along with a cracker against Grand Rapids FC in the first round of Midwest playoffs before scoring perhaps his biggest goal yet when he put Duluth up 1-0 against AFC Ann Arbor in an eventual 3-3 draw which would be won by Duluth in a penalty shootout. At the end of the season Tyrer had made 13 regular season appearances and starts, two USOC starts, and started all four of Duluth’s playoff matches.

Tyrer’s journey in football started long before Duluth however, and his resume in the game provides a glimpse into the diverse and experienced range of backgrounds that the NPSL has been able to draw talent from.

Mentored by former player and coach Tony Robinson from a young age, Tyrer found himself in the academies of several historied English clubs, including Blackburn Rovers, Preston North End, Tranmere Rovers, Stoke City. This stage of Tyrer’s life provided great learning experiences but perhaps most importantly a well structured system, “I was at a professional environment, everything such as strength and conditioning and trainings were all structured and the clubs made sure we were in the best physical condition for our upcoming trainings or games."

The English system also gave Tyrer harder lessons when it came to the competitive element of the game on and off the pitch, “The levels in England are really tough, everyone wants to take each others place so you are never safe.” Tyrer faced one of his toughest challenges when he was released, no longer supported by an academy system and left to find his own way back into the world of football. “I even learned a lot by being released, it gave me that statement that i was never safe, so you always have to play your best and not have an off day.”

Tyrer managed to earn a spot in Morecambe’s reserve team, resulting in training and playing opportunities against players at a whole other level. “The reserve games were a great test for me at Morecambe as I played against professional players. I was only young so it was coming to the stage where i was playing against full on men which helped me a lot, it also helped playing with some of the professionals at Morecambe. This helped as I learned the little details that i needed to take on board such as your warm up being strong and you being fully focused.”

Tony Robinson, the player and coach mentioned earlier, would appear again in Tyrer’s life, suggesting that the defender try to make it happen in America where he could finally “get what you deserve” in Robinson’s words. The combination of playing opportunities and a chance for a proper post-grade school education was an intriguing duo for Tyrer, who found himself in the states not long after.

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Tyrer’s journey in the US, built on a foundation of collegiate soccer, would bring him to the NPSL soon after. “I chose to play in the NPSL because I just love to play, its my passion. If i get spotted by a professional side then that would be a bonus for me, as i just want to play as long as i can at the highest level possible. I wanted to improve myself so that i can become a better player and hopefully become a professional from this.”

The center back’s first swing at the NPSL brought major firsts for both him and his club, Duluth FC, who won their regional championship and played in the NPSL’s national semi-final against Miami FC 2. “I expected a great summer, and thats what it was. I’ll be honest, i always believed but i never thought we would go to the national semi finals as we were only a small group… I never knew we could of got this close is such a small amount of time.”

Having come off a six goal season in which he faced two professional teams, Saint Louis FC and Miami FC 2, Tyrer found the NPSL a place where he could hone his skills, play good teams, and expand his portfolio, “I believed this league has helped me develop as a player as i have played with and against older and really talented players. It is good to come up against good players as you wanted to test yourself. I also became a goal threat from playing in the summer which was really good for me as I always try to get goals to help the team, and being the top goalscorer was a big plus for me.”

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Another important lesson Tyrer picked up over the course of his collegiate and NPSL experience in the US is the great possibilities that can come to International people, students or otherwise, who pursue a new life in American soccer at these levels. “I think this is the best option for internationals when playing in the US, there is no international cap which means that you can have 11 international players on the field if you would like. It is all about playing at the best possible level while playing during your college years as everyone can get better and better.”

While there are perhaps endless paths that have led different players to the NPSL, UPSL, and state leagues in different ways, Tyrer is evidence that even those who have taken steps into the beautiful game in the traditional homes of the game, like England, can have new and educational experiences playing here in the states. Tyrer is far from the only former academy kid that now calls the NPSL home, but his top goalscorer and trophy lifting debut season for Duluth FC make the value of gathering a diverse and experienced group all the more evident.

- Dominic Bisogno

All photos courtesy of Alex Ganeev Photography


Lola Vaughn