After joining the Richmond Kickers midseason in 2019, Ryley Kraft was one of the first players the club announced for the 2020 USL League One season.
Even as last season ended in frustration, the Richmond Kickers knew that they had two talented young players on the books for 2020 to build around – Joe Gallardo & Ryley Kraft. The pair would be a part of 12 players returning from 2019. And with Joe Gallardo moving on to the Real Monarchs, Kraft becomes a centerpiece in the Richmond midfield.
The 22-year-old figures to be an integral part of Darren Sawatzky’s redesigned Kickers. So we reached out to Ryley to take part in the 10 questions series to find out more about last year’s addition.
1) Originally from California, at what point did soccer go from a game you played to something you were serious about?
RK: Definitely once I turned around the age of 12 or 13. I went to Italy on trial with ACF Fiorentina and saw how serious their lifestyle was toward soccer. My mentality definitely changed after that.
2) At what point and how did you get involved with the Sacramento Republic?
RK: I joined Sac Republic in their inaugural season of the academy in 2015-2016. I went through the academy system and was involved with the first team until I left in 2017.
3) From there you moved to Orlando City B, where a number of Richmond Kickers from last season played over the years. What initiated the move across the country and away from playing with Sacramento?
RK: To be honest I had a very hard decision to make. I was involved with the national team in a camp in Miami where Orlando City B came into the picture. I had to chose to stay and sign with Republic or move to Florida to sign with OCB. Ultimately chose to sign with OCB.
4) After a brief spell in Oklahoma, you joined the Richmond Kickers in the middle of last season. How did the club first get in contact with you and what sold you on joining the club?
RK: One of my best friends Joe Gallardo played here last season and spoke very highly of the club and coach. He said it would be a great place for me to develop as a player.
5) Fast forward and you now have been with the club for more time than half the squad. How has that dynamic shifted for you from joining a group mid-season to being the one welcoming so many new faces?
RK: It’s not always easy joining a club mid-season but I was lucky enough to already know the likes of Joe, Chinny, and Scotty so that helped a lot. The rest of the group welcomed me very well so credit to them. The new faces that have joined the group this season have been great. We’re lucky to have such a great group of guys this season.
6) Last season we saw you play in a few different midfield roles, heading into the new season, what position did you see yourself playing at the start?
RK: I can play any role in the midfield if I was asked too. I’m a true 8, box-to-box midfielder. I feel comfortable as a 10 and also as a 6. Wherever coach wants me to play in the midfield I’ll be ready.
7) We’ve learned through the question series that you and your roommates have set up a communal video game station in your living room. Which game are you the best at (at the moment), which game do you want to improve at playing, and what is a game you’ve yet to play but would like to get around to during this break?
RK: Great question. This the first time I’m rooming with guys that are close to my age so it’s nice. We all play Fortnite. I’ll play FIFA here and there but Fortnite is pretty much it for me.
8) When you aren’t focused on playing soccer, who are your favorite teams to support – soccer or in another sport?
RK: I support FC Bayern Munich and gotta show love to the hometown Sacramento Kings.
9) What TV show or movies have you been watching during this downtime?
RK: I’ve been watching the new seasons of All American and Money Heist.
10) While we are all in isolation what is your advice for staying in shape when soccer eventually returns?
RK: I’m treating it as an off-season. We’re lucky enough that our staff has come up with a plan for us to follow every week. We’ve all been working so when training does start back up we can hit the ground running to prepare for our season opener.
Thanks to Ryley for answering the questions.