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Plenty of Irish interest as North American Soccer League gears up for new season

Richie Ryan and Colin Falvey came so close to the championship in 2015 but both players are now at different clubs.

Image: Jacksonville Armada

IT’S ALL CHANGE for the Irish contingent plying their trade in the North American Soccer League as the new season kicks off this weekend.

Richie Ryan and Colin Falvey reached the championship final with Canadian side Ottawa Fury last term but suffered a bitter 3-2 defeat to a Raul-inspired New York Cosmos outfit in the decider.

Both Munster men face into the new campaign in fresh surroundings.

Ryan, the former Sligo Rovers midfielder, has headed for the Sunshine State and is the new captain of the Jacksonville Armada, now coached by legendary US goalkeeper Tony Meola. Another former Sligo player, Pascal Millien, is already there.

Things can only get better for the franchise as they struggled in their debut outing last year – finishing bottom of the overall standings.

This will be Ryan’s third season in the NASL. Speaking to The42 last year, he explained the allure of a move across the water.

The game is growing over here. I’ve played in Ireland and Scotland and I don’t feel as if I fitted into Scottish football in the way I want to play the game so it wasn’t really a destination I was keen on staying in. Growing up in Ireland, every kid wants to go to the UK which – after seeing different things over the last few years that I’ve been playing – I think Ireland needs to get away from that mentality.”

Meanwhile, Falvey has relocated to Indianapolis and signed for Indy Eleven after requesting a move away from Ottawa.

He’s been joined there by former League of Ireland striker Eamon Zayed whose spell with Malaysian side Sabah came to an end last year.

Though Ryan and Falvey have departed the Fury, the club have gained an Irishman by signing Northern Ireland international Jonny Steele.

The 30-year-old has been around North American circles for quite a while, most successfully as a team-mate of Thierry Henry’s at MLS side New York Red Bulls.

His impressive form there resulted in call-ups for the national team and he made his debut in May 2014.

And Jake Keegan may be American by birth but he’s Irish by the grace of Galway United supporters.

The New York native spent two years with the Tribesmen and was a key reason for the team’s promotion to the top-flight under Tommy Dunne. He managed double-figures in the Premier Division last term and was voted the side’s Team of the Year.

He joined Canadian side FC Edmonton late last year and has his eyes set on a move to Major League Soccer in the future.

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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