Wednesday, October 27, 2010
By NICHOLAS MURRAY
In many ways, players like Pittsburgh Riverhounds defender Ryan Pierce are the ironmen of American soccer.
While most professional players stick to playing either the indoor or outdoor version of the game, for the past three seasons Pierce and others have switched between the two to keep their goals of a solid professional career alive.
“It does take a toll on your body,” Pierce told USLSoccer.com by phone. “Going from indoor to outdoor, and vice-versa, you have no time off. Your body definitely gets beat up, more so on the indoor game just because of the hard surface and the boards and everything else, although indoor is a fun game. You get to see the ball a lot more, there’s a lot more goals, a lot more action.”
A member of the MISL’s Baltimore Blast for the past three seasons, Pierce has also played for the Harrisburg City Islanders, winning the USL-2 championship with the side in 2007. As arduous as playing both disciplines has been for the native of Albany, N.Y., he said he believes the touch and skill required to play the indoor game has helped him become a better player outdoors.
“Definitely, 100 percent,” Pierce said. “If you’re an outdoor player, you can get by with having a decent touch or maybe having too big of a touch every once in a while, but with indoor your touch has to be spot-on every time to step out on the field. Taking that to the outdoor game, it just made me a better outdoor player.”
That’s why Pierce would recommend younger players take the opportunity to play both forms of the game, and with the arrival of the USL I-League in the fall of 2011, players might get just that opportunity. As Senior Director of USL PRO Chris Economides pointed out when USLSoccer.com spoke with him recently, one of the league’s aims is to have both outdoor and indoor franchises under the same ownership umbrella.
While the details of the leagues’ schedules have not yet been arranged, both leagues being in the same organization could mean schedules that work alongside one another, giving players who compete in both leagues the chance to prepare properly before moving outdoors in the spring or indoors in the fall.
“Fitness in indoor and outdoor is completely different, it’s like night-and-day,” Pierce said. “In indoor you’re on the field for a minute, 90 seconds and then you’re off for a minute, and then you go to outdoor and some coaches expect you to play a full 90 minutes, and your body’s just not used to it.”
It could also help franchises build a brand through both the indoor and outdoor game, an idea Pierce would be behind.
“I think it would be good,” Pierce said. “You get to keep your fan base interested, you’re not going to lose fans for six months, or whatever it is, and you can keep your franchise up and running, keep players in jobs, but I would say the biggest thing would be the fan base. As a player, you love to interact with the fans, whether it be the older age-group or the kids that come to the game.”
Pierce may not play indoor soccer this winter, the grind of three consecutive years without a proper break taking its toll on his body. With the experience he has gained competing indoors and out, though, he would certainly recommend taking the opportunity to do so to any of his colleagues.
“With the guys coming into the league, being able to play indoor and outdoor makes them love the game that much more,” Pierce said. “Their being allowed to be a professional year-round, I would definitely recommend that.”