Posted On July 28, 2015 by PUSC
Frederick Dreier, Special for USA TODAY Sports, July 20, 2015 —
FC Dallas midfielder Ryan Hollingshead has spent this season proving his versatility on the field.
One of just two FC Dallas players to compete in all 20 games, Hollingshead, 24, has played five different positions, attacking the opponents as a winger and protecting his own goal on defense. Although he’s scored just two goals, Hollingshead’s play has helped Dallas to sit atop the Western Conference standings.
“It’s the options we have with Ryan that make him valuable,” said head coach Oscar Pareja. “It’s exciting to see him take this step up.”
For Hollingshead, the elevation of form could not have come soon enough. Since he entered the league in 2014, Hollingshead has been on an unending quest to recapture the physical form that earned him 2012 Pacific-12 Conference player of the year honors during his senior year at UCLA.
“I’m probably at 90 percent of where I want to be,” Hollingshead said. “I didn’t think it would take this long to get back.”
While FC Dallas drafted him in 2013, Hollingshead quit soccer to start a branch of his church — the Chicago-based Harvest Bible Chapel — alongside his older brother, Scott, in their hometown of Sacramento.
He spent more than a year away from the sport, working full-time for a residential real estate firm to pay his bills. During his free time, Hollingshead jogged for fun and played pickup basketball to stay fit, however he did not play any soccer.
Both Hollingshead brothers played soccer for UCLA. Scott eventually quit soccer to become a pastor with the Harvest Bible Chapel, and in 2011 he began making plans to start a church in Sacramento. During a conversation over Christmas break in 2012, Ryan told Scott he would help him with the project after graduation the following year.
Scott, 28, said he was hesitant to bring his little brother on board with the project.
“I tried to be careful with 1/8Ryan3/8 because I didn’t want to pull him away from soccer,” Scott Hollingshead said. “People said it would be career suicide for him.”
Scott Hollingshead said his hesitation increased the following year after Ryan enjoyed a dominant senior season at UCLA, scoring seven goals and recording eight assists. The breakout year caught the eye of MLS recruiters, including scouts from FC Dallas. But by mid-2013, Ryan had made his mind up to forego a professional career.
Ryan skipped the MLS combine and the draft to complete volunteer work in Haiti, but FC Dallas still chose him 20th in the second round. After visiting with the team that February, Ryan told Dallas officials the bad news.
“We had dreamed about the church, and in our plans it always included me,” Ryan said. “I knew what I was leaving behind.
Within a few weeks, Ryan had moved back to Sacramento, and alongside Scott, he held prayer meetings and solicited funds for the fledgling church. They held Sunday services in the cafeteria at Granite Bay High School, where both men had attended. While Scott received salary as the pastor, Ryan managed the church alongside his day job.
The church grew faster than both expected, growing from six original parishioners to more than 150 within six months. Today, the church has 300 regular parishioners. By early 2014 the Hollingshead brothers had secured operational funding to hire full-time staff.
With the church on strong financial footing, Ryan Hollingshead reached back out to FC Dallas, which gave him a tryout for the 2014 season.
After a two-month fitness crash course, Hollingshead earned a spot on the team, but soon found that the year away had eroded his soccer form. Hollingshead spent most of the 2014 season playing in the reserve league with varying success.
“Moves I could make in my sleep in college — I couldn’t do them,” Hollingshead said. “I felt so slow.”
Hollingshead’s progression has not been without setbacks. He was replaced midway through the team’s May 9 victory against the Los Angeles Galaxy. Throughout the season, he’s battled with teammates Michael Barrios and Mauro Diaz for a starting spot.
Pareja said he never considered cutting Hollingshead, even when his form appeared shaky.
“To see the commitment Ryan had for God — that is very unique for me,” Pareja said. “For me, that value of personality is important.”