For the past three seasons, the men’s soccer team at Springfield College has been graced by a player on the sideline, most likely hobbling, or crutching back and forth up and down the sidelines, yelling at his teammates. This season, the Pride welcomed him back to the field, and they’re more than happy that he has arrived, healthy.
Ryan Malone came to Springfield College in August of 2010, reporting for men’s soccer preseason camp, but it didn’t take him very long to get here.
Malone, a local student-athlete from Chicopee, Mass. was named The Republican’s Male Athlete of the Year his senior year of high school after collecting All-Scholastic honors in soccer, basketball and volleyball at Chicopee Comprehensive High School.
In his final year before college, Malone posted 17 goals on the soccer field, averaged 16.8 points per game in basketball, and was an essential ingredient on a state championship volleyball team that went 23-0.
As a freshman at Springfield, Malone picked up right where he left off – on top.
In his first season with the Pride, the 6-foot-2 midfielder led the team with nine goals and posted three assists to give him a team-leading 21 points. In his first game in maroon and white, Malone scored the eventual game-winning goal in the 62nd minute of a 4-1 victory over Johnson and Wales University, one of his five game-winning goals that season.
In his final summer-league game with the Western Mass Pioneers – a club team in the Pioneer Valley area – prior to returning to Springfield College for his sophomore year, Malone broke the fifth metatarsal in his foot. Commonly known as a True Jones Fracture, a broken fifth metatarsal is notorious for its prolonged healing process due to a lack of blood flow to the diaphysis of the bone.
“I took a random step, just like I would be normally doing and I heard the bone pop and I was like, ‘What the heck is that?’” recalled Malone. “I felt it and I was like, ‘Wow, this does not feel right,’ and I put my foot down and tried to walk and I was on the ground.”
Although injured and not able to compete, the young star was forced to make a decision. It was important for Malone to still be involved with the team. Whether it was offering opinion, answering questions, or having laughs with his best friends, Malone still wanted to have an impact, but this experience, in turn, ended up changing him as a person.
“When it happened, I sat down with Coach [Steffin] Siebert and his main focus was that I did not ‘drop off,’” commented Malone. “When I had questions about formations, I would still ask the questions as if I was playing. That way when I know the answer and other people have questions they can talk to me. Plus, when I was on the sideline, you see the field completely different. You see what spaces are open and what’s not open and how defenders come at you; it brings to light all different sides to the game that you don’t see when you’re on the field.”
This attitude was one of the most impressive things his coach has ever seen.
“A guy who is out for the season, he knew he was not going to play, but he came to every morning practice at 6 a.m., he came to every afternoon practice, every video session,” said Siebert. “He was always there for everything. He tried to be as positive as he could be in a situation like that and he motivated people and let them know that he would give anything to be playing right now, and I think that made a difference in a lot of other people’s playing experience.”
Following a disappointing sophomore year, Malone was excited to rejoin the Pride on the field at preseason camp in the summer of 2012 for his junior season. However, it was during a warm-up drill at a hot and humid August practice when Malone felt a pop underneath his cleat.
It was just what he feared it wouldn’t be. It was another True Jones Fracture, but this time, in the opposite foot. The season was a wash. Malone was back at practice the next day, sporting crutches and a hard cast.
“I believe it was so hard for him to see the whole season from the sideline last season, but it made him a better soccer player,” said Siebert. “He saw what it takes to be consistent throughout the whole season. He saw other players go through ups and downs and that definitely helped him grow.”
As for this season, Malone has returned to the Pride, and it doesn’t seem like he has missed a beat.
The former midfielder now anchors a strong Springfield defensive unit along with junior Drew Sommer and seniors John Mankus and Drew Vanasse. The unit has only allowed five goals through their first nine games.
Although playing defense now, Malone has posted five goals and one assist and has picked up a pair of NEWMAC Defensive Player of the Week honors in the still-young season.
“He is the best teammate I have ever had, both chemistry-wise and ability,” commented senior captain Scott Saucier. “He is unbelievable. Off the field, he is my best friend. All of my teammates are my best friends. We are all very close. That’s why we are playing well.”