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PROFILE: Former NYCFC ringleader Alex Ring ready for 'new challenge' at Austin FC
(Alex Ring/Facebook)

Alexander Ring

Jersey number: No. 8

Hometown: Helsinki, Finland

Position: Defensive Midfielder

Age: 29

Former Club: NYCFC


Background

(Alex Ring/Facebook)

Although he's spent years playing football in three separate countries, one thing's clear for defensive midfielder Alex Ring: he's always representing Finland.

Austin FC made a huge decision when choosing Ring, a high-profile former NYCFC captain who has graced the pitch for the MLS, Bundesliga (Germany's premier football league), and Finland's national team.

ATXFC Sporting Director Claudio Reyna, who first brought Ring to the American leagues back in 2017, paid big money for Ring to go Verde. Ring's contract, which could be up to $1.25 million in general allocation money if certain performance incentives are made, would be the biggest deal of its kind for any non-U.S. men's national team player in MLS history.

Before Austin FC, Ring spent time as the "ringleader" at NYCFC from 2017-20, where he was the team leader in minutes played in both 2019 and 2020. A team captain, Ring made 119 starts in his 120 appearances with the club and contributed 10 goals and 13 assists to the team. His leadership gained him a Coach's pick in the 2018 MLS All-Star game.

Although Ring said he wanted to finish his career at NYCFC, he said he is excited for the "new challenge" that a brand-new team like Austin FC brings.

"I would have loved to finish my career there ... but at the same time, I'm really happy for a new challenge," Ring said. "I spent four wonderful years there and I showed my worth to them, and now I'm going to come here and do the same."

Before NYCFC, Ring spent seven seasons in the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga, Germany's top two football leagues.

For the 2014-17 season, Ring played in the second-division league for FC Kaiserslautern. He logged a personal-best season in 2014-15, where he made six goals in 24 games, but the team's own instability and some injuries kept Ring from reaching his full potential for all three seasons.

Ring, who spent much of his childhood in Germany, spent three more years in the country with the Bundesliga's five-time champion Borussia Monchengladbach, where he appeared in 21 matches and scored one goal in two seasons played (2011-13).

A native of Helsinki, Finland, Ring began his professional career in the nation's capital. Ring helped Helsinki HJK win the Suomen Cup and the Finnish Veikkausliiga league in (2010-11), scoring six goals and 43 appearances in his first pro season.

Ring has also represented Finland's national team for 43 matches (39 starts) and has played on the international stage in the Baltic Cup, European and World Cup Qualifiers.

For Ring, the biggest difference between the growing MLS and more established European leagues is youth development.

"I think it's getting better and the gap is closing, but I think it's important to invest in the youth development," Ring said. "That's what it's all about. In Europe, they have a youth pipeline and players coming through the ranks all the time, so I think that's the biggest difference between the MLS and Europe."

With Austin FC

Reyna reunited with Ring for good reason—he was named one of the top five defensive midfielders in the MLS earlier this year.

Ring said he sees some similarities between the Austin FC program and programs he's admired in the past, something that has helped him adjust to a new team.

"I think I see the game very similar to how Josh sees it on and off the ball," Ring said.

As a central midfielder, Austin FC Head Coach Josh Wolff said that he's already seen Ring's ability to connect players from around the field.

"Alex Ring does a great job connecting everybody on the field which is exactly what you want from a six," Wolff said.

Ring recognizes the importance of his position and said he finds himself putting "puzzle pieces" together to organize a cohesive team.

"It's an important position that connects the defense and offense," Ring said. "It sounds simple but it's not, its a puzzle, a lot of moving pieces, and I try to make it easy for the players around myself but for myself as well."

With his accolades, Ring's starting spot is nearly guaranteed, but he'll provide more than just a strong middle to the team. At 29, Ring can bring some seniority and leadership to the core of the team, and as a former NYCFC captain, Ring is in the running for the captain spot once again in Austin. He's also shown positional flexibility and has played both in the middle and left-winger positions in the past.

Because his leadership is almost a given, Ring said he doesn't mind if he gets the captain spot or not and that he sees a lot of other players with potential to wear the armband.

"I don't think the armband is something important, but it doesn't mean you shouldn't take responsibility," Ring said. "I think we have a lot of guys who would be fantastic candidates to be the captain. I think with my position on the field that it's natural, and I take responsibility when it's important."

Off the pitch

Ring was born to a German mother and Finnish father and spent several years training for football in German academies as a child.

Although he spent much of both his childhood and adulthood in Germany, Ring said in 2011 "I have not even applied for German citizenship. It has been obvious for me that I represent Finland."

Ring has been in the U.S. since 2017 and earned a U.S. green card in 2018.

Ring is also married and has two children. Although he and his family had to endure the winter storm, Ring said they are enjoying their newest city.

"We've loved it so far. Me and my family have settled in well," Ring said. "Apart from the winter storm, the weather's been pretty nice as well."

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