Jersey number: No. 8
Hometown: Helsinki, Finland
Position: Defensive Midfielder
Former Club: NYCFC
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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If you are a committed, grunge-wearing resident of the Pacific Northwest, it is easy–almost automatic–to look at Texas as an extraordinarily dry, hot and culturally oppressive place that is better to avoid, especially in the summer. Our two granddaughters live with their parents in Portland.
Recently we decided to take the older girl, who is 15, to Dallas. Setting aside the summer heat, a Portlander can adjust to the vibes of Austin without effort. So let’s take Texas with all of its excesses straight up. Dallas, here we come.
Our 15-year-old granddaughter and her sister, 12, have spent summer weeks with us, usually separately so that we could better get to know each individually. In visits focused on Austin and Port Aransas, the girls seemed to be developing an affection for Texas.
Houston and Dallas are two great American cities, the 4th and 9th largest, each loaded with cultural treasures, each standing in glittering and starchy contrast to Austin’s more louche, T-shirts and shorts ways.
Three hours up I-35, Dallas loomed before us as a set of gray skyscrapers in a filmy haze, accessed only through a concrete mixmaster of freeways, ramps and exits. I drove with false confidence. Be calm, I said to myself, it will all end in 10 minutes under the hotel entrance canopy. And it did.
The pool at the Crescent Court Hotel in Dallas. (Crescent Court Hotel)
We stayed three nights at the Crescent Court Hotel ($622 a night for two queens), a high-end hotel in Uptown, patronized by women in white blazers, business people in suits, and tall, lean professional athletes, their shiny Escalades and Corvettes darting in and out, and other celebrities like Bill Barr, the former attorney general who shoe-horned his ample self into a Toyota.
Each morning as I walked to Whole Foods for a cappuccino, a fellow identified by a bellman as Billy the Oilman arrived in his Rolls Royce Phantom. Where does he park? “Wherever he wants to. He likes the Starbucks here.”
We garaged our more modest set of wheels for the visit. We were chauffeured for tips by Matt Cooney and Alfonza “The Rev” Scott in the hotel’s black Audi sedan. They drove us to museums, restaurants and past the enclaves of the rich and famous. In Highland Park, The Rev pointed out the homes of the Dallas Cowboys' Jerry Jones and Troy Aikman along with the family compound of the Hunts, oil and gas tycoons.
The Dallas Museum of Art’s “Cartier and Islam” exhibit (until Sept. 18) attracted an older crowd; the nearby Perot Museum of Nature and Science was a powerful whirlpool of kids’ groups ricocheting from the Tyrannosaurus Rex to the oil fracking exhibit. Watch your shins.
A Geogia O'Keeffe oil painting called "Ranchos Church, New Mexico" at the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art. (Rich Oppel)
For us, the best museum was the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, a 50-minute, madcap drive away via a 75 mph toll lane along I-30. Don’t try it during rush hour. The Carter has an exquisite collection of Remington paintings and sculptures and an excellent array of 19th and 20th-century paintings as well. Pick one museum? The Amon Carter. Peaceful, beautiful, uncrowded, free admission and small enough to manage in two hours.
The Fort Worth Stockyards, a place of history (with a dab of schmaltz), fun and good shopping, filled one of our mornings. The 98 acres brand the city as Cowboy Town, with a rodeo and a twice-daily (11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.) cattle drive. We shopped for boots, drank coffee and watched the “herd” of 18 longhorns. So languid was their progress that if this were a real market drive the beef would have been very tough and leathery before it hit the steakhouse dinner plate.
The cattle drive at the Fort Worth Stockyards. (Rich Oppel)
But we could identify: the temperature was 97. “I saw a dog chasing a cat today,” said the emcee, deploying a very old joke. “It was so hot that both were walking.”
With limited time, we chose three very different restaurants:
- Nobu, in the Crescent Court Hotel; Jia, a modern Chinese restaurant in Highland Park; and Joe T. Garcia’s in Fort Worth. Nobu’s exotic Japanese menu set us back $480, with tip, for four (we had a guest), but it was worth it.
- Jia was an ordinary suburban strip mall restaurant, but with good food and a reasonable tab of $110 for four.
- Joe T.’s is an 85-year-old Fort Worth institution (think Matt’s El Rancho but larger), a fine Mexican restaurant where a meal with two drinks was $115.
Sushi at high-end restaurant Nobu. (Crescent Hotel)
It was all a splurge for a grandchild’s visit. Now we will get back to our ordinary road trips of Hampton Inns, where a room rate is closer to the Crescent Court’s overnight parking rate of $52. And to corner cafes in small towns.
Did Dallas change our 15-year-old’s view of Texas? “Yes. I think it’s a lot cooler than I did. The fashion, the food.” So, not only Austin is cool. Take Texas as a whole. It’s a big, complex, diverse and wonderful state.
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And in June, Musk sent a company wide email saying Tesla will be reducing salaried headcount by 10%, then later tweeted salaried headcount should be fairly flat.
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