Harrisburg City Islander’s defender Tyler Ruthven took some time out of his day to talk to the Philly Soccer Page and we had a couple of interesting questions for him. Tyler played his college soccer first at San Francisco and later at the University of South Carolina where he earned All-Conference USA honors all three years. He played in the PDL with the Colorado Rapids U23s and the Chicago Fire Premier and has recently been training with some other clubs on the American soccer landscape. Though raised in Georgia, Tyler has some local connections that Philadelphia sports fans might find pretty interesting…
PSP: Some of our readers may be aware that your father, Dick Ruthven, was a major league pitcher in the 70s and 80s with the Cubs, Phillies, and Braves, and won a world title with the Phillies in 1980. Have you always aspired to be a professional athlete? Was your sport always soccer?
Tyler: I always wanted to be an athlete and it’s really all I was focused on growing up through high school and college. I played little league growing up but one day when I was 10 I just decided soccer was what I was going to do. My brother and cousins all played Division 1 baseball and a couple got drafted so I was always surrounded by baseball. Even now my uncle is a broadcaster for the Florida Marlins. Since the day I picked soccer I have never once second guessed myself.
PSP: We see that you majored in Sports and Entertainment Management at South Carolina. Planning ahead for a career in sports after your playing days?
Tyler: I would love that, obviously my first objective is to play as long as possible but I couldn’t imagine my life without sport in some capacity.
PSP: Though you played your college soccer at San Francisco and South Carolina, you played in the Premier Development League with Chicago Fire Premier. The Fire had a pretty stacked PDL roster the season you were there and have traditionally had a strong club with alumni like Chris Rolfe, Jonathan Spector, Brad Guzan, and Ricardo Clark. Can you compare that experience for us with other teams you have played for? Are they doing something special there that everyone else needs to pick up on?
Tyler: I grew a lot playing for Chicago. I was actually one of the few guys that didn’t get drafted off our roster; it was a humbling experience to play with those guys but I loved it. We definitely played at a high level, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to be a part of the playoff run to the final as I had a nagging hamstring that I went back to rehab at USC. I was fortunate enough to train with the first team for a few days and thoroughly enjoyed my experience.
PSP: Tyler, you turned professional this summer and signed on with the Harrisburg City Islanders in July. What was the on-field transition like for you from college soccer to professional soccer? What was the transition like off the field?
Tyler: I actually signed June 1. It was such a long process from the disappointment of the combine/draft to finally playing meaningful games again. I actually reported to Puerto Rico and was given an opportunity to play for them but decided to turn it down to go back and finish the semester. There was a point when the semester ended in May that I thought I may never play again, I thought that when I left Puerto Rico I may have closed the only door I had. Luckily, Steve Widowson, one of the Harrisburg assistants, saw me play when Puerto Rico picked me up and convinced the club to sign me. On the field I feel like I adjusted fairly quickly, the pace was a bit faster but I never felt like the game was getting away from me.
PSP: Back in March, the Harrisburg City Islanders signed on as an affiliate of the MLS expansion side, Philadelphia Union. We’ve seen some interesting things come out of that relationship from the friendly on City Island, to the signings of JT Noone and Sheanon Williams, and the training and loan relationships that have worked both ways. What was the relationship like behind the scenes? What kinds of involvement did the two clubs have that wasn’t highly publicized?
Tyler: The affiliation is really what drew me to Harrisburg. Sheanon and I became pretty good friends through the season as we both kind of found ourselves in similar situations. I never really saw any of the work behind the scenes but after the friendly with the Union John Hackworth expressed some interest to my agent about me training with the club after the USL2 season although unfortunately that never materialized.
PSP: Despite some great showings this year and a victory over the eventual league champion, Charleston Battery, the City Islanders did not make it to the USL 2 playoffs. What are you taking away from your first year as a professional? Have you had a chance to reflect back on the season yet?
Tyler: My first season as a pro was probably the most frustrating experience of my life. When I signed we were at the bottom, and I got there and we got hot and started to make a run at things. It was frustrating because soon as we made progress we unraveled again down the stretch and cost ourselves a chance at the playoffs. For me personally it was a challenge because I had to deal with some nagging injury issues when I first arrived and then I had to adjust to playing left back which I had never really played before. I am a natural centerback and think my future as a pro will probably only be at center back.
PSP: You recently finished a trial with FC Tampa Bay who play in the second division in American soccer, and we understand that Tampa Bay has invited you to train with them in the run up to next season. Is that your likely destination next year? Any chance of seeing you again on City Island? Any chance of seeing you in a Philadelphia Union kit?
Tyler: I had a three day trial with Tampa when we were done and unfortunately due to weather and other issues I was only able to train for one day with the team. As frustrating as it was, I was able to at least be invited to preseason next year. Playing in Philadelphia for the Union would be an absolute dream for me; I would do anything for a chance at that. There hasn’t been any interest from the Union apart from the initial talk of me training at this time.
PSP: Some athletes are very superstitious about their gameday habits, what music they listen to pre-match, or what food they eat. Any interesting quirks to your gameday routine?
Tyler: I am not superstitious at all. Music changes for me, I used to like a lot of heavier stuff to get me going but as I got older I’ve started to listen to more things to calm me down pregame. As for food, I usually try and eat a carbohydrate heavy meal about 4 hours prior to kickoff.
PSP: When you aren’t on the soccer field, are you a sports fan? Do you get caught up in fantasy football this time of year or are you following the pennant race? Who’s your favorite team?
Tyler: Well I am back training at [South Carolina] in the offseason and so I am an avid Carolina fan. Obviously I would like to see the Braves pull off at least the wildcard, but also I have ties to Philly. I follow the premier league pretty closely.
PSP: Any interesting experiences living in Pennsylvania? Did you get much of a chance to explore Philadelphia?
Tyler: I only made it to Philly once for the Celtic friendly, I wish I could have made it more. [But] I am back at [South Carolina] till preseason.