AFC Ann Arbor are thrilled to confirm the first newcomer to the 2019 roster, forward Ryan Pierson. Pierson is a local player hailing from Plymouth, Michigan, and attended high school at Detroit Catholic Central where he was named 2017-18 Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior. He will be the second Gatorade PotY to play for AFCAA, joining Alec Lasinski (2013-14 winner). From there, Pierson played at Saginaw Valley State University before transferring to the University of Detroit Mercy ahead of his sophomore season. Last season he made eighteen appearances with three starts for the Cardinals, tallying four assists in his first season on the collegiate level.
On joining the team, Pierson said, “I’m really excited about coming along and joining AFC and I’m really looking forward to the season and getting started with the team.” When discussing his excitement for the upcoming season, Pierson said, “I’m most looking forward to playing at this level of soccer. I haven’t yet gotten to play in the NPSL, it’s been something growing up in high school I knew I’d want to play [in]. It’s always something I’ve wanted to do, play for a top team. I’m really excited to do so.”
AFCAA also had multiple alluring aspects about it. One was their status as a NPSL Great Lakes power. As Pierson put it, “I see they’re always…a top team in the league. I want to play for the best team possible and get the best training in and win as many games as possible.” Another was location: “Ann Arbor is also close to home so that really drew me in too so my family and friends can watch me play. And then their fans and everything like that, it seems like [there’s] a really good fan base.” Finally, Pierson also noted his knowledge of Eric Rudland growing up in the region, and cited UDM Head Coach Nick Deren’s experience with Rudland by way of Michigan Rush as a way to trust in the AFC head man.
Given his strong freshman season with a top program at SVSU and his high school accolades – not even mentioning his unreal 32 goals and fifteen assists in just 25 games as a senior with the Shamrocks – it is no surprise that when talking about strengths, they generally center around attacking quality. Pierson described himself as “more of a 1v1 player” in general. When assessing his game further, he said, “I like to get on the flank and cut in, and also take it down the line with my left foot and get as many shots off as possible. I think going 1v1 in the final third and getting the shot off is my greatest quality, and using my speed to do that.” Head coach Eric Rudland agrees with this self-assessment, saying on his new attacker, “He is a pacey winger who can cause problems for opponents in the final 1/3 of the field. We expect Ryan to make an impact for the team and be a player who can grow into our club in years to come.”
Between a tough schedule with one of the top teams in NCAA Division Two and a transfer to a Horizon League Division One school, Pierson is confident that when it comes to quality of competition in the NPSL, he will not be fazed by the impressiveness of the other seven teams in the conference. “At Saginaw Valley we won the league, won the conference, and got to play against a ton of top teams there as well like Michigan and Oakland in the preseason,” Pierson said. “I think from Saginaw to Detroit and now the spring season in Detroit I’m definitely playing against a lot of top talent [with] a lot of these people playing in leagues like the NPSL.” The talent has been there in teams he has already played, the hope is that Pierson is going to be able to swiftly transition over against the tough competition of the NPSL.
When it comes to goals, Pierson is focused not just on personal betterment, but he is also aspirational for the team as a collective. He says, “I want to win as many games as possible and I want to score as many goals and assists and help my team contribute as much as possible to win another championship.” With the culture of excellence that has been built, especially as two-time defending NPSL Great Lakes Conference Champions, the positive mindset and solid confidence within himself and his new teammates is surely a delight for fans of the club to see. Called a “good player with a bright future” by Rudland, Pierson is another positive signing for the future of the club.
About AFC Ann Arbor
Founded in 2014, Association Football Club Ann Arbor launched it’s men’s semi-pro team in 2015 and has competed in the NPSL since 2016. Led by Head Coach & Sporting Director, Eric Rudland, the team has found great success winning back to back Great Lakes Championships (‘17 & ‘18) and earning US Open Cup bids three straight years (2017-2019). In October 2018, the club announced the launch of the women’s side, who will be skippered by Andy “Pritch” Pritchard in their inaugural season of the United Women’s Soccer national league. Owned and operated by a group of local soccer fans and entrepreneurs, AFC Ann Arbor has become a fixture in the greater Ann Arbor community.