The following story was published in the Revolution’s “Match Day” program for the October 8 game against the San Jose Earthquakes
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Beat writers and copy editors around Major League Soccer rejoiced when Ryan Guy scored a pair of goals in the New England Revolution’s 3-2 loss to the Chicago Fire on Sept. 25 at Toyota Park. Not because of any particular rooting interests in the game, mind you, but because of the three letters scrawled across the back of his jersey, just above his number.
You see, Guy’s last name provides considerable fuel for the type of easy-to-write, pun-filled headlines designed to grab attention in the oversaturated world of journalism, driven by its 24-hour news cycle. In fact, a perfect example can be found in the headline of this very feature. It’s just too simple.
As such, it’s unsurprising that throughout his life, the 26-year-old Guy has become accustomed to hearing his last name used in a variety of ways.
“Oh gosh, I’ve heard so many I wouldn’t even want to start,” he said with a laugh when asked about the different variations he’s encountered. “Most of them I can’t even say. But the good thing is that I’ve heard them so many times that now I basically just hear my name. I have to use it as power rather than anything else.”
It’s likely Revolution fans will be hearing much more of Guy’s name after the former University of San Diego standout notched the first two goals of his MLS career in that late September meeting with the Fire. With the Revs trailing 3-0 entering the 90th minute, Guy produced a pair of goals – the first a mishit which looped just under the crossbar and the second a clinical finish at the end of a flowing move – to pull his side to within 3-2 in a matter of minutes.
Ultimately it was too little, too late for the Revolution as the final whistle blew shortly after Guy’s second goal, but the impact of the right winger’s compelling performance was one of the primary talking points in the aftermath of the match.
“Ryan’s come in and done well,” said assistant coach Stephen Myles. “He’s worked hard in training all the time and he’s listened to what we’re trying to tell him. Like we tell everybody, we ask people to do simple things. Keep it simple and do the simple things well. That’s what he’s done.
“We’re asking him to get balls into the box, we’re asking him to take up good spots when we’ve not got the ball and he’s done both of those things,” Myles continued. “You can’t ask any more. He’s deserved the playing time that he’s gotten.”
As Myles alluded, Guy has worked tirelessly for his chance to prove himself with the first team. After signing with the Revolution in early June following a four-year stint with St. Patrick’s Athletic in the League of Ireland, Guy spent a healthy portion of the 2011 season performing sporadically with the reserve side and watching from the bench during the majority of first-team matches. In 16 regular-season contests between June 10 and Sept. 16, Guy made just one start and five substitute appearances, including one as a makeshift right back.
That changed in late September, however, when injuries forced fellow outside midfielders Sainey Nyassi (R MCL sprain/R hamstring strain) and Monsef Zerka (L quad strain) to the sidelines, opening the door for Guy to make just his second start since joining the Revs.
Safe to say, Guy grabbed hold of the opportunity with his two-goal performance in Chicago. It was a just reward after months of grinding through daily training sessions, both trying to impress the coaching staff and keeping sharp for whenever his break finally arrived.
“It’s definitely been a time of learning and growing as a player for me,” said Guy, noting the inherent difficulties of joining a team midway through a season. “It’s been a struggle but also really a time of professional competition and I think increased motivation for myself to really try to fit in and gain chemistry [with my teammates].
“It’s really just about playing well,” Guy added in reference to the day-to-day approach in training when fighting for a spot on the field. “Keeping the ball in training, scoring goals in training, playing well in reserve matches – it’s pretty straightforward. I feel like the good thing here is that there’s at least a fairness to the way you play in training [in correlation with] the minutes you get in a game. Playing well in training and reserve games has, I think, been paramount.”
Aiding Guy in his quest for playing time in recent months has been his experience in Europe, where he began his career in 2007 as a wide-eyed 21-year-old straight out of college. Battling not only to prove his ability on the field, but simultaneously overcoming the cultural obstacles of living in a foreign country and fighting the stigma as “the Yank” in an Irish league, Guy was more than prepared for a relatively similar situation when he arrived in New England.
Guy was equipped for the task mentally, as well, noting that upon signing with the Revs he fully expected a period in which he’d have to work his way into the team.
“That was my expectation, absolutely,” Guy said. “Coming from a league that’s not as well known as a lot of the other European leagues, I knew that I wouldn’t be the huge prospect that someone like Benny Feilhaber would be. So I was ready for that and I’m glad that I at least prepared myself for it because it’s been exactly what I was expecting.”
Preparation and a bit of veteran guile also helped Guy on game day in Chicago, where he capitalized on his fleeting opportunity when teammates went down with injuries. While many younger players would’ve felt the weight of the situation after patiently waiting months for a chance to start, Guy was able to keep his focus on the task at hand.
“The good thing is I have a few years under my belt and I’ve gone through spells where I’m playing well, not playing well, in and out of the team,” he said. “So I feel like I’ve gotten to the point where pressure is there and it’s noticeable, but it’s not something that really gets to me.”
“You want those guys who are squad players, if they get an opportunity, you want them to come in and do the business,” said Myles. “You don’t want to see a drop in quality. Obviously, he’s come in and done himself well.”
Prepared as he was, even Guy admits it took more than experience and sheer will to break his way into the team.
“There is definitely some kind of fourth element out there,” he said. “You have to have a little bit of luck, whether it’s the unfortunate loss of a player because of injury or just the ball bouncing your way. There are a lot of things that have to come together to do it.”
But luck aside, Guy’s breakthrough into the first team was driven primarily by an unrelenting work ethic which manifests itself in the diligent midfielder’s tireless efforts up and down the flank. Beyond his pair of late goals at Toyota Park, Guy was impressive from start to finish, earning the praise of both the coaching staff and Feilhaber.
“He was rewarded for being in the right place at the right time and finishing his two chances,” Feilhaber said of Guy, his roommate during road trips. “That’s great to see and hopefully we get to see more of him. I think he’s a guy who’s always going to give 100 percent, that’s for sure. I think everyone can see that.”
Guy credits his hard-working, team-first attitude to his upbringing in southern California, where both he and Feilhaber grew up playing club soccer.
“Just the way that we grew up in our clubs, we were with those guys for long periods of time and also through college, it was engrained in us that the team comes first,” said Guy. “The hard work? That’s just engrained in me from my family.”
That type of workmanlike attitude will be critical for Guy moving forward as he continues to put in the hours at training and aims to turn his eye-catching performance in Chicago into a regular place in the team.
“The next step is trying to solidify that (starting) position,” said Guy, who also noted he’s well aware he and many of his teammates are playing for contracts for next season. “This is only the first step. It’s only the first goals and I’d like to be (scoring and) assisting more goals. Having a strong position on the squad is definitely my next step.”