It’s time to add another line to the long list of accomplishments for Monmouth University product Ryan Kinne. The Naugatuck, CT native, who helped lead the Hawks to national prominence under head coach Robert McCourt, is headed to the pros with his hometown team, the New England Revolution.
For Kinne, playing in MLS is simply fulfilling another goal – one he felt was never out of reach.
“I’ve always wanted to become a professional soccer player,” said Kinne. “There was never a point where I really doubted myself.”
That confidence served Kinne well as he parlayed an impressive high school career into a standout college career with the Monmouth Hawks. After earning First Team All-American honors during his final two years, professional coaches took notice. Thus, it hardly came as a surprise when his name was called in the third round of the MLS SuperDraft, selected with the 42nd overall pick by the Revs.
Interestingly, Kinne expected to get the call much earlier and left the Baltimore Convention Center, where the draft was held, out of frustration after his name wasn’t called in the first two rounds.
“People were telling me there was a good chance I was going to go maybe early to mid second round,” said Kinne. “To see my name just keep falling it was kind of a letdown.”
That disappointment didn’t last long. When Kinne eventually learned he was going to join the Revolution - the same team he had grown up rooting for - the despair quickly faded.
“To see [I was picked by] New England, a team that was right up the street from me and I’ve watched since MLS was around was something special,” said Kinne. “I really look forward to playing for them.”
Growing up, Kinne’s favorite player was former Revolution and U.S. International striker Joe-Max Moore. A chance meeting with the Revolution legend cemented his admiration for his boyhood hero.
“To see him play in a Revolution uniform every week and then see him on the national team, he was really one of my role models,” said Kinne. “My family went up to a game and stayed at a hotel and actually met him in the hotel, so it was pretty fun to meet someone you look up to. That’s when I really started looking up him.”
It should come as no surprise then that the 5-8 goalscorer, who can play up front, as well as across the midfield, plays a style similar to Moore’s. The two share a similarly small stature, but the resemblance doesn’t stop there: both show uncommon poise on the attack, employ their pace to take on defenders, often find the back of the net in a myriad of manners, and do well to create chances for teammates.
Now Kinne will be hoping to emulate Moore’s success on the professional level.
Unlike many other college prospects, who’s journeys to top flight soccer are often littered with setbacks and valleys, Kinne’s path to the pros bursted with success at every stop. Constantly under the spotlight, the 22-year-old has always risen to the occasion. Back at Naugatuck High School, Kinne dominated the competition, as recruiters crammed the stands. In his senior year, he led the state in scoring, steered his school to the league championship, and earned NSCAA Connecticut State Player of the Year. When it was all said and done, Kinne finished his high school career with a school-record 79 goals and 26 assists in just three years.
“My senior year in high school, putting up those numbers and having coaches recognize it and award me with an honor like that was pretty special,” said Kinne. “That was just another step before coach [McCourt] gave me a chance at Monmouth to shine on a big stage.”
McCourt was one of several coaches keeping an eye on Kinne. McCourt had already put Monmouth on the soccer map, taking the men’s soccer team from an eighth place finish in 2004 to first in 2005. The Hawks were on their way to back-to-back undefeated seasons in conference play and the Northeast Conference title in 2006 when he saw Kinne as a player that could help take them to the next level.
“Whenever I saw him play with his club team, [it was clear that] he’s a winner and he’s got a real strong habit of scoring big goals and that’s stuff that you can’t teach,” said McCourt. “He’s got a lot of intangibles that you just can’t teach. He’s got a real flair for the spectacular with the big goals, whether they come from free kicks, through the run of play, things of that nature, he just seems to be able to score big goals all the time.”
But it wasn’t just Kinne’s incredible scoring record that impressed McCourt. Kinne’s technical ability and speed seemed the perfect fit for Monmouth’s new style of play.
“He’s a technical guy that some guys stayed away from because of his size, but he certainly has very good pace and athleticism to combine with his technical abilities,” said McCourt. “For us and for our style of play I think it was a perfect fit for both us and for Ryan.”
Indeed, the style of play employed by McCourt allowed the enterprising Kinne the chance to shine.
“We stress playing a creative brand of soccer,” he continued. “We stress keeping the ball on the ground and we try to play a possession brand of soccer which is an environment Ryan needs to be in. There are a lot of college soccer programs that whack it long and then play for set pieces and long throw-ins all the time. It’s not an environment for him to flourish. I think it was a good fit.”
It didn’t take long to sell Kinne on the school, either. Monmouth wasn’t initially on Kinne’s radar, but one meeting with McCourt changed all that.
“After one meeting with [McCourt] I knew, even though I had just met the guy,” said Kinne. “I only heard great things about him as a coach. He sold me.”
For Kinne and McCourt, the decision couldn’t have worked out any better. Kinne immediately made his mark with the team as a freshman, starting 15 of the 16 games he played and tallying three goals and two assists along the way. Although the 15 starts as a freshman were impressive, it was actually the manner in which Kinne scored one of his three goals that McCourt truly realized he had an exceptional player on his hands.
“There was one moment when we played against Long Island University,” said McCourt. “We were losing in a conference game and he chipped the keeper from around 20 yards out. I just said to myself ‘that’s very special for a freshman to be pulling that off in a conference game, to have the poise and to have the savvy to pull that off was big.’”
It was a sign of things to come for Kinne. The attacker continued to show his penchant for the dramatic throughout his time with the Hawks.
“He just had big moments for the rest of his career,” said McCourt. “The amount of game-winning goals and the amount of times that he stepped up and scored a big goal off a header, a big goal off a set piece. He just has a flair for the big moments.”
More importantly, those big moments helped usher greater ones for the team. During Kinne’s collegiate career, the Hawks captured the NEC regular season title in each of his four seasons, and a pair of NEC Tournament Championships during his junior and senior years. Monmouth was ranked as high as #5 in the NSCAA nationwide rankings during that stretch, and earned NCAA tournament berths in 2009 and 2010.
“It wasn’t really about the individual experiences - it was more about the team,” said Kinne. “By far the best experience I had there was beating [12th ranked] UCONN in the first round of the NCAA tournament in penalties. It was an absolutely surreal feeling to be the first team in Monmouth history to advance in the NCAA tournament.”
After a series of storybook seasons at Monmouth, Kinne finished his career with 35 goals and 21 assists. His impressive statistics wouldn’t go unnoticed. In addition to his two All-American selections, he earned NEC Player of the Year twice and was a two-time semifinalist for the Hermann Trophy, the award given to the best Division I soccer player in the country.
As if a remarkable collegiate resume hadn’t provided enough evidence of his exceptional talent, Kinne was given one more chance to impress the scouts at the MLS Combine, which took place earlier this month. The Combine features the best soccer players from around the country, and quite often separates the poseurs from the pros. During the glorified tryout, 80 or so players are divided into four teams, creating a difficult situation where prospects attempt to impress coaches while playing with unfamiliar teammates. It was a situation that didn’t deter Kinne in the slightest. Once again, Kinne was his usual confident self, as he redirected a cross into the far corner of the net from close range for one of his team’s three goals during the showcase.
“The first day everyone was kind of getting used to each other still, but the second and third day I thought I did pretty well,” said Kinne. “I was very happy with my performance and hopefully New England was too.”
It should come as no surprise Kinne managed to rise to the occasion at the Combine. He’s been doing that at every level his whole career.
Now, his toughest task awaits: earning a roster spot with the Revs once the preseason commences on January 31st. While McCourt feels he’s likely to make it as a midfielder at the professional, Kinne’s versatility to play up front, as well as anywhere in the midfield, should help his case.
“Hopefully I’ll have a chance to go in, play well in preseason, make an impact and open some eyes on the coaching staff and earn some playing time,” said Kinne. “That’s the plan.”
If Kinne’s career thus far is any indication, expect Kinne’s plan to land him a spot on the roster come opening day March 20th in Los Angeles. And where better for a player with Kinne’s flair for the dramatic to make his professional debut than – you guessed it – Hollywood?