Blumberg’s continental shift

Ryan Blumberg playing for Charlton Athletic FC in the UK. Photo: Charlton Athletic FC

RYAN Blumberg’s dream of developing into an elite-level football player is continuing to come true – the only change is the continent he is pursuing it on.

After 18 memorable months experiencing his first taste of professional football as a contracted player for Charlton Athletic’s U23s team, Blumberg made the difficult choice last month to depart the famous southeast-London club in order to kickstart the next stage of his development on the other side of the world.

He accepted a soccer scholarship offer from the University of Maryland near Washington DC, and started it last week.

The talented and hard-working 20-year-old left-footed defender – whose potential was first noticed as a teenager playing for Moriah College and Hakoah FC – could have begun the scholarship in 2017, but opted to pursue his dream of playing football in the UK first.

He played more than 20 games for the ‘Addicks’ in the 2017-18 Professional Development League 2 as the club’s second youngest player, helping them reach the semi-finals, earning an extension to his initial one-year contract.

But the team has underperformed this season, prompting Blumberg to reassess his situation.

Before departing for the USA, Blumberg told¬†The AJN¬†during a brief holiday in Sydney that he’d thought “long and hard” about his future in recent months, and feels comfortable about his decision.

“I’ve learned so much at Charlton – both on and off the field – and I feel so honoured to have been given my first professional contract there, and to have played two games for the firsts [senior team] too, including a game against Liverpool,” Blumberg said.

“When I arrived in England I was fit and strong, but definitely nowhere near what I am now.

“Just to play and develop in the English system – with the speed of the game there, the higher technical ability and physicality of the players, and the coaching expertise and one-on-one match reviews – was so beneficial.

“It’s been an unbelievable experience and privilege to play for Charlton, but at the back of my mind I was seeing how well Maryland [University] was doing in college football – they won the 2018 title and five of their players signed contracts with Major League Soccer clubs.

“I knew that this was going to be my last opportunity to secure a scholarship there, plus I felt I was starting to stagnate a bit, so I was excited at the prospect of a fresh start.

“I also met Maryland’s coach and found him to be very disciplined and quite demanding of his players, which is what I like.”

Blumberg said he is excited about experiencing the US College sports culture.

“College sports get a huge following in America, and Maryland gets big attendances for soccer, averaging 8,000 to 10,000 fans at home games.

“It’s part of what they call in the US ‘the Big 10 Conference’, they play in Division 1, and their training facilities are incredible.”

Since touching down in Washington last Monday, Blumberg has already started attending lectures and pre-season football training sessions.

“The US college soccer season only starts around late August, so it’s really good to have started here this early, so I can have a proper pre-season – I feel pumped.”

Charlton Academy manager Steve Avory wished Blumberg well, and thanked him for his contribution to the club, describing him as being “an asset around our U23 group these past 18 months”.

“In Ryan, we’ve had a player who has been totally committed each and every day,” Avory said.

SHANE DESIATNIK

The University of Maryland’s 2018 US College Soccer premiership edition T-shirt.