By: Logan Alexander
Another day passes by, and yet again Jacksonville Armada have announced more news regarding transfers and player signings. Just two short days ago, Jacksonville revealed that they had signed Jack Blake, a central midfielder from Minnesota United FC who starred in the Nottingham Forest Youth Academy before signing his first professional contract for the “Tricky Trees”. Today, via social media, the Armada have made their second announcement regarding a player signing for the club.
With a viable need to build a roster in preparation for the preseason upcoming, the Fleet have signed Kalen Ryden, 25, a defender from Oklahoma City Energy FC. The 6’2 center back was drafted in the fifth round (69th) of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft by Columbus Crew, though did not make any starts with the MLS club.
Just before college, the young player featured for the Des Moines Menace of the PDL. He made eleven starts before declaring to play in college.
In college, Ryden played for Oral Roberts University before transferring to Midwestern State, following an injury after the 2010 season. During his time with the Golden Eagles, Ryden made 35 appearances and marked three goals and two assists from the defense. After taking 2011 off, Kalen Ryden returned to the pitch in 2012.
Though he was back on the field at a new school, Ryden was unable to play in 2012 due to transfer rules of switching universities, in which he was red-shirted for the season. The full return came in 2013 and as a player for the Mustangs, Kalen made 28 appearances and scored a goal while assisting twice. The player went on to play for Austin Aztex, who were then in the PDL after his collegiate career came to an end, in which he appeared fourteen times and scored on three occasions.
Ryden signed his first professional contract on March 2nd 2015 by the Columbus Crew, but was loaned to Austin Aztex who had moved up a division to the United Soccer League. Ryden made nine appearances and scored once but he was waived by Columbus in April of the same year.
The Oklahoma native returned home after his short stint of time with Columbus as he signed with Oklahoma City Energy FC in 2015, where he made 26 appearances and scored one lone goal.
Kalen is described by OKC locals as “ A great, high energy player (pardon the pun), and held a place in their heart as a local of Oklahoma.” Another person remarked that “Kalen is a leader and always focused on bringing intensity on gamedays. He really got the boys going.”
The young player has the look of being a decent signing, but judging a book by its cover is a dangerous game to play. Yes, Ryden was selected in the MLS SuperDraft by Columbus but he has never played a meaningful match above the USL level, and with top NASL striking talent still being shopped around the league, we don’t know how successful he will be at this level until the time comes of him making appearances. Also, Jacksonville is a tough environment to enter into to play at that position. In the past two years of being a franchise, Jacksonville has allowed 95 goals in just 62 matches, not counting U.S. Open Cup fixtures. These numbers equate to a goals allowed average of 1.53 per game, which are absolutely staggering.
Being away from OKC will be different and a change for him as well. This is a new league, different opposition that he has never faced before, and he is not safe in his home state anymore with an adoring hometown fan base watching each and every week. Armada fans and supporters have witnessed failures, time after time, in the defense. Fabricio Ortiz, Lucas Trejo, Anthony Wallace, Beto Navarro, even the main players that were loved by the fans were beaten up in the league, Matt Bahner, and Tyler Ruthven for example. Over time if the problems of defending continue to reappear, people are going to tick. How will a young player in such a hot seat handle himself if complications and situations arise?
Nathan Walter and Mark Lowry are not afraid to pursue faith into younger players that are hungry and motivated to play and be successful. Once again, this is another 50/50 signing as we do not know exactly what we will get out of our new defender, we will just have to wait and see whenever he takes the pitch for the first time.
This is only the beginning as an influx of new names will be announced in the coming days and weeks…