The past couple of years have seen the presence of the Long Island Rough Riders, along with the PDL, reach uncharted territories in regards to the Major League Soccer. That trend has continued over the past few months, with a pair of former Rough Riders making an impact on the MLS.
First it was former Rough Riders’ goalkeeper Ryan Meara. A former Rough Riders player, and PDL standout, Meara agreed to terms on an MLS contract with the New York Red Bulls on December 12, 2016. A New York native, Meara has managed to stay on his home turf for his entire soccer career. Meara attended Fordham Prep and Fordham University from 2004-2012, where he racked up nine goalkeeper records in his time there including an astounding 31 shutouts. During the 2009 season, Meara led the Rough Riders to a 12-2-2 record, taking them all the way to the divisional semifinals. His next season would be with the Jersey Express S.C. where he was voted PDL goalkeeper of the year, posting 8 shutouts in 12 appearances.
Upon graduating from Fordham, Meara was selected in the second round of the 2012 MLS SuperDraft by the New York Red Bulls. Meara began his career with a bang and was quickly named the starter while setting a NYRB record for not conceding a goal in 321 minutes as well as a 5 game winning streak. Meara suffered from various injuries that kept him sidelined for an extended period of time. He responded in a big way in 2016, as he was placed on the NYRB II team and captained them to their first USL championship. Meara will definitely be someone to look out for in 2017.
Then nearly a month later, it was former Rough Riders midfielder Joe Holland to find himself in the MLS. Holland, 23, heard his name called early into the night, as he was selected with the 10th overall pick by the Houston Dynamo at the 2017 MLS Draft in Los Angeles. Holland was one of a record 31 PDL alums taken in the first two rounds of the draft. Holland’s track record suggests that success awaits him in America’s premier level of soccer. During his two-year (2014-2015) stint with the Rough Riders, registered 7 goals and 11 assists in just 18 games of action. His activity in the attacking third was vital during the Rough Riders run to the PDL playoffs in 2015.
In addition, Holland starred in his four years at Hofstra. The English starlet was named the 2016 CAA Preseason Player of the Year and his 28 career assists rank third all-time in the program’s history. Despite an increased level of physicality compared to back in England, Holland adjusted quickly to the American style of play. He attributes the PDL as an opportunity to play at a high level, while also further developing his skills on the pitch. “Playing for the Rough Riders for my first two summers in the US gave me an opportunity to experience a high standard of non-college men’s soccer this side of the Atlantic,” Holland stated. “I think the PDL can be a good transitional league to the USL or MLS, and playing with the high quality of players that I played with at rough riders helped me to develop my game.” Where Holland can really help the Dynamo, who were bottom feeders in the Western Conference, is through his distribution of the ball. His ability put the ball in dangerous areas makes him a threat every time the ball is at his feet. “I think that my ability as a distributor is predicated on my practice playing in tight spaces with my friends in London,” Holland said of his passing expertise. “Playing keep ball and small sided games helped me to see spaces and analyze runs quickly, so that I can work out which pass is the best in any given situation when I am playing in bigger spaces in an 11-a-side game.”
In just his first year at the biggest stage, Holland will look to establish himself as one of the hardest workers on and off the field, while being ready to fulfill any role that he is asked of. Holland may very well see a quality amount of first team action this year. Proving that he belongs will be key to a successful Major League career. Be sure to watch out for both Meara and Holland when the MLS season kicks off in early March.
Staff Writer, Jackson Heil