New England Soccer Today

Rudy Paying His Dues

Photo credit: Rochester Rhinos

Photo credit: Rochester Rhinos

It didn’t take long for Tyler Rudy to fully grasp that he wasn’t at Georgetown anymore.

Four months after his final NCAA match, the Revolution rookie was readying himself for his first pro start with the club’s USL affiliate, the Rochester Rhinos, on Apr. 18. The match pitted the Rhinos against  Saint Louis FC at Worldwide Technology Soccer Park in St. Louis. And what awaited him was something he wasn’t expecting at all.

“It was pretty incredible considering it was my first professional start and there were 6,000-plus fans there, so that’s something I hadn’t really experienced,” Rudy told via telephone. “My sophomore year, we made it to the national championship at Georgetown, and it was very similar in that type of feeling, and that was just a regular season game for Rochester.”

Rudy has spent the last six months adapting to change, ending 2014 as a senior captain and being named to the second team All-Big East at Georgetown. Not long after, he was invited to Revolution preseason camp as an undrafted trialist. And just like that, he went from the NCAA tournament to fighting for a roster spot with the Revolution.

For many rookies, the transition of going from the college game to the top flight can be a humbling experience. The speed, quality and talent in MLS is far superior to even the strongest NCAA side.  But to Rudy, it served as a reaffirmation of his abilities.

“I think that made me realize that I have the potential to play in the MLS,” Rudy said. “I think I kind of surprised myself a little bit. I think when I’m determined and put my mind to it, I think I do have the capabilities to play in the MLS, and I’ve been referring back to it to push me and just remember that level that I was at.”

Photo credit: Rochester Rhinos

Photo credit: Rochester Rhinos

After proving he belonged, Revolution signed Rudy midway through preseason camp. There was just one problem: he joined a team that already had plenty of depth in the middle of the park. With playing time likely to be scarce, the team assigned Rudy to its USL affiliate, the Rochester Rhinos in late-March.

Under the watch of Rhinos coach Bob Lilley, it didn’t take long for Rudy to realize he was in a whole new environment.

“It’s different,” Rudy said. “It’s every morning, training every morning, taking care of your body a lot more and I’m just learning so much with a lot of veteran guys around me who have been in the MLS and have been with the Rhinos for a few years.”

Rudy’s adjustments included getting accustomed to the higher level of talent, as well as fighting for playing time all over again. His spot in the Rochester lineup is not guaranteed given the amount of depth and quality players on the Rhinos squad, which has brought success early in the form of an unbeaten 6-0-2 record, good for first place in the USL standings.

“There’s 20 guys on the team that could start,” Rudy said. “We switch the lineup a lot and all the guys are fresh and eager to play because everyone’s fighting for a spot.”

Despite the fight for minutes across the roster, Lilley has been impressed with the way Rudy has taken to the challenge right off the bat.

“Tyler has definitely gotten himself into the flow pretty quickly,” Lilley told via telephone. “He earned those starts, based on his play in training. He is a guy that is capable of starting for us, and we also have more than 11 starters so it’s competitive every week.”

Lilley praised Rudy’s distribution and ability to get out of tricky situations, which is a skill many players have trouble with when adjusting from college to professional soccer.

“Tyler sees the game well and is very efficient with his passing,” Lilley said. “The decision-making at this level – we’re still working on some of those things, but he seems to be adapting, adjusting quite well.”

With a successful start to his Rochester career, the midfielder is drawing comparisons to another young Revolution player who is now impressing at the MLS level.

“I think Tyler is a player that is going to play similar to a Scott Caldwell,” Lilley said. “It’s important he’s in the right spots to disrupt counter-attacks, so we’ll work on him breaking up plays and trying to recognize situations defensively and where to be.”

Rudy won’t argue that his game is similar to that of his Revolution teammate.

“The way that I’ve learned to play since leaving Georgetown and preseason with the Revs is very much like Scott Caldwell in the fact that we aren’t 6’2”, strong, and we have to understand that we aren’t the most physically gifted,” said Rudy. “So it’s very quick one-two touch, smart movements, playing with our brain.”

Photo credit: Rochester Rhinos

Photo credit: Rochester Rhinos

Rudy has made only made two starts and seven appearances so far in the season, and Lilley is very high on Rudy’s abilities on both sides of the ball.

“He’s a thinker, so we can see him growing already. His vision-making has gotten better just in the month he’s been here. You see growth in that area. He’s good trailing a play, that’s how he got his assist,” said Lilley. “He’s had a couple other chances where when we get in good attacking areas, he’s playing a little bit deeper, but either he or the other central midfielder can jump in sometimes late in the attack and get into an area and Tyler is pretty good at recognizing that.

“He’s got a skill set where, you can get a good strike off from range – even 20, 25, 30 yards – he can get a strike on goal or deliver a telling through-ball, because he’s got that in his bag of weapons.”

Thanks to those weapons, Rudy has wasted no time aiding his club in during its early-season hot streak. During the Rhinos home opener on Apr. 25, he assisted on the opening goal to help send his squad to a 2-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls II.

“It was really a great feeling because it was the first time I had seen my family in, probably since they moved me into Scotty Caldwell’s house in Boston (in March),” said Rudy. “It was really nice to register a point, but more importantly get the win against a good Red Bulls team. It was a little bit of a weight off my back, definitely, but for me it’s not really about statistics, but more so about developing as a player, getting experience.”

Rudy hopes that he fulfills the potential the Revolution and Rhinos see in him and one day make it back to the MLS with New England. But for now, Rudy is focused on making the most of his time in the USL and contributing to deep and talented Rhinos squad.

“Every day that I train, my goal is to get better individually and help make the team get better,” Rudy said. “And I think, so far, we’re on the right track and the team’s undefeated. I think I’m getting better individually, gaining experience, and I’m fighting to get the shot to get back to New England and have an impact on the Revolution as well. But we have to start with short-term goals.”

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