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Red Bulls to sign Zach Ryan to MLS deal this week

Stanford forward and academy alum was PAC-12 player of the year in 2020

Stanford v Georgetown
Zach Ryan won a national title and scored 31 times in four NCAA seasons at Stanford.
Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images

On Monday afternoon the Wasserman sports agency confirmed what OaM had learned through various sources in recent weeks — that the New York Red Bulls will be signing forward Zach Ryan to an MLS Homegrown contract for 2022.

The 22-year-old Ryan recently completed a four year career at Stanford University, where won a national championship as a freshman in 2017 and was named PAC-12 Player of the Year in 2020. He finished his college career with 31 goals and 13 assists in 73 games and this past summer he made 2 appearances with the Red Bulls U-23 team in USL League Two, recording 2 goals and 2 assists. He hails from the same hometown as John Tolkin in Chatham, New Jersey and in the Red Bulls academy he was teammates with Omir Fernandez.

While a modernizing MLS has become increasingly difficult for NCAA veterans to adjust to, talent can still be found from the college game and the Red Bulls will have had a better look at Ryan than most pro clubs get at a college player. In Ryan, the Red Bulls will be getting a forward comfortable scoring with both feet in front of goal and also dropping off the line to receive the ball and connect with teammates. Ryan is not a speed demon but he has enough athleticism to meet the demands of the Red Bull system, one he’s already somewhat familiar with from youth levels.

What you will see from Ryan is an efficient player. He doesn’t dwell on the ball — it is one or maximum two touches before making a pass or letting off a shot. This also is how he operates in wide areas looking to pick out the cross early before defenses get a chance. Ryan is a bit similar to Brian White in that he is not someone many will peg for stardom but he has the potential to be a very solid MLS contributor. He will likely start out with Red Bull 2 as most young players do, though Ryan strikes an older profile than the reserve team has been recruiting for in recent years.

Off the field the club is getting a player who is intelligent and talented. At Stanford he received multiple academic awards including being named an Academic All-American in 2020. He was also a member of The Mendicants, Stanford’s first acapella group. I would hate to be the guy who has to follow him in the standard new player talent show done in preseason and road trips.

Meanwhile, Ryan appears to be one of if not the final Homegrown signings of the offseason for New York. Recent rumors around Duke University midfielder Peter Stroud (who spent time in England with the West Ham academy in addition to the Red Bulls and is the younger brother of Jared) have dissipated, although OaM has learned there is potential for third-year Red Bulls II forward Jake LaCava to receive an MLS deal during the preseason camp that opened this morning in East Hanover.