Serious question: in the last four seasons, who has had a more successful career in New York soccer than Ruben Bover? Between 2013 and 2016, Bover contributed to the winning of four different titles in three different leagues: the 2013 MLS Supporters' Shield with New York Red Bulls; the 2015 NPSL Championship with New York Cosmos B; the 2015 and 2016 NASL Soccer Bowls with New York Cosmos. At the very least, that has to be among the more trophied pro careers in New York soccer of recent years.
And now it is over. On January 27, Engllish club Barnet FC announced it had signed the Spanish midfielder. Bover has left New York and returned to the country where he turned pro. The following day, he watched his new team play Carlisle to a draw, 1-1. And he gave a brief interview to the club's YouTube channel:
"It's been a great four years," he told his interviewer, somewhat understating the experience perhaps. After making the decision to leave his hometown club, Mallorca, to seek a pro career in England, Bover passed through several lower-league teams: Kidderminster Harriers, Halesowen Town, and Charlton Athletic (where Bradley Wright-Phillips was playing when Bover signed). He landed with RBNY in early 2013 as a well-traveled 20-year-old.
His only start for RBNY that season was the team's very first competitive game with Mike Petke as head coach. He fell out of favor rapidly after his debut, mostly due to Petke's preference for more experienced, defensively-minded flank players in 2013. But he was closer than most to the emotional regular-season finale that delivered RBNY the first trophy in its history.
#TBT: On this day in 2013, the club won its first piece of silverware, the Supporters' Shield. #REDTogether #RBNY pic.twitter.com/GCjnvPPnCJ— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) October 27, 2016
In 2014, Bover earned a slightly expanded role, winning 19 appearances - still mostly brief and from the bench - and scoring one goal. It is perhaps that one goal that most endeared him to RBNY fans. In the greater scheme of things, Ruben Bover is just another Red Bull who came and went without leaving much trace. But if you were following RBNY closely in 2013 and 2014, he looked like one who was visibly growing, maybe into a starting role.
Fans generally like the experience of watching unknown young players develop into first team stalwarts - and that is essentially now the defining strategy behind RBNY's current roster-building approach. Ironically, perhaps, to initiate the transition from star-driven team to system-is-the-star, youth-oriented RalfBalling, the Red Bulls needed to clear out the squad, and young Bover was part of the clear out.
But before that, he scored a goal. It was the second in a late-season, 3-1 win over Toronto FC, as RBNY was steadily motoring toward the playoffs.
It had an unusual significance for some fans, however, because Bover had scored earlier in the season for the Red Bulls. His first official goal for the club arrived in October, 2014. But in April of the same year, we had seen him put the ball in the net against Houston Dynamo. Unfortunately, his celebration - and the crowd's - was cut short by the realization the referee had already stopped play and awarded a penalty. His first goal for RBNY turned into part of Bradley Wright-Phillips' first hat-trick for the team.
But the sight of the unbridled joy of a young player who had waited a long time for his chance and thought he'd taken it was hard to forget. (Start around 6:32 below)
And that made Ruben Bover hard to forget, even though he is a long time moved on from the Red Bulls.
After leaving RBNY, he bounced over to New York Cosmos B. He was the Cosmos' reserve team's MVP after an unbeaten regular season, made the All-NPSL first team, and helped the team win the 2015 NPSL Championship. By August, 2015, he was in the Cosmos' first team squad.
He was on the bench when the Cosmos won the 2015 NASL Soccer Bowl, and he played the entire 2016 Soccer Bowl, which the Cosmos also won.
And now he is back in England. Four years older than he was in his last effort to make it in the English game, with the experience of winning trophies at every American team he's ever played for - look after him, Barnet.
Best of luck, Ruben.