Alexander Ring knew he had lofty expectations when he became the second captain in New York City FC’s five-year history.
The 27-year-old took over for the recently departed face of the franchise, David Villa. Some might find the task of leading a team in a star’s footsteps daunting. Ring tried to be himself.
“When you think about David, who was the club’s first player and our captain for four years before, it’s a big responsibility,” Ring told amNewYork earlier this month.
The Helsinki, Finland native has maintained his steady presence on the pitch, appearing in 29 and 30 regular season games in his first two MLS seasons, both with NYCFC. He played in both draws that opened the Blues’ 2019 schedule, scoring in the season opener in Orlando.
“Ask anyone, I don’t think I’ve changed much,” said Ring, who scored twice last season. “I’ve always been this way. If I have something to say, I’ll say it. If not, I’ll keep my mouth shut. I won’t be talking all the time.”
The 5-9 midfielder wore the armband on occasion during Villa’s absences. He said he’d be happy to weigh in on questions head coach Domènec Torrent poses, though Torrent hasn’t asked so far.
“Nothing has changed since last year,” Ring said. “Domè’s football mind is amazing. It really hasn’t changed. He interacts with all his players the same way. It’s very natural.”
While Ring may keep to himself at times, his leadership qualities clearly haven’t gone unnoticed by the coaching staff nor veteran goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
“Obviously everyone knows how passionate he is as a player on the pitch, and he’s like that off the pitch as well,” Johnson said. “Having a guy who’s committed to win at all costs is somebody who you want to have leading a group.”
Ring has the experience to back up his role. He made the 2018 All-Star team and has years of European play under his belt. Ring said he was told about the captaincy the first day he saw Torrent and his teammates this preseason.
“I was proud, of course,” he said. “I didn’t expect it or anything. I’m pretty calm, so I wasn’t jumping around and shouting hooray, but yeah of course it made me proud.”
It didn’t take long to feel the weight of the challenge, but with it came the knowledge of the great influence he could have on the Blues’ season, which continues Sunday when LAFC visits Yankee Stadium.
“I feel a responsibility to the team, for the guys, because I feel it’s my job to lead us and to take us where we want to go,” Ring said.