They are known as walk-ons in other sports. But they are trialists in soccer, which has its own parlance. Whatever you call Ryan McCurdy, call him a pro player with Pacific FC.
The 27-year-old centre-back became the 16th player, and first trialist, signed by the Canadian Premier League club.
“There’s a lot of emotion at the moment,” said the dual citizen and native of Belfast, Northern Ireland.
“It’s a bit surreal.”
With a lesson thrown in.
“It shows when you think the dream of pro sports may be over for you at 24 or 25, if you keep going and working hard, anything can happen,” said McCurdy.
It’s been a steady progression. McCurdy won a national championship with the Vancouver Island University Mariners in 2017 and was named a Canadian colleges national all-star in the process. He remained on the Island that summer to play for the Victoria Highlanders of the USL PDL (now USL League 2). McCurdy has also played for Vic West, and so becomes the first Vancouver Island Soccer League alumnus to sign a pro contract with Pacific FC.
“I’ve played for a lot of different teams in Ireland and Canada and you take away something from every experience and each of them gives you something to help you grow as a player,” said McCurdy.
The amazing thing is that McCurdy came into camp with a hip fracture and was out two months before being able to join in drills only a few weeks ago.
“They were patient with me, for which I am grateful,” said McCurdy.
“Trialists usually come in nervous, but I tried to display confidence. If you believe you’re good enough, you can display that confidence you need at this level. I think the coaching staff liked that. At six-foot-three, I can read the game and have a presence on the back line.”
Being on the field with former Premiership pros from around the world and highly-capped Canadian national team players such as Issey Nakajima-Farran, Marcus Haber, and Marcel de Jong before he went down with injury, has been an eye-opener for McCurdy in Pacific FC camp. As has being around the flotilla of young Canadian pro talent Pacific FC has assembled.
“This is so intense and fast and nothing I’ve been used to,” said McCurdy.
“This is definitely a higher calibre than I’ve been part of before.”
But McCurdy proved he belongs.
“He checks a lot of the boxes within our club’s philosophy and has played extensively on the Island,” said Pacific FC CEO and GM Rob Friend.
“Ryan is in a great stage of his career, and brings tremendous character on and off the field.”
McCurdy becomes the second Pacific FC player out of Bill Merriman’s VIU soccer factory, joining attacking-midfielder and former Vancouver Whitecaps-2 pro player Victor Blasco.
“You can only improve in an environment such as this,” said McCurdy.
Pacific FC is preparing for the inaugural game in franchise history April 28 at Westhills Stadium against HFX Wanderers of Halifax.