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're looking for a restaurant that shakes up your dinner, try one of these newly-opened options.
Conveyor belt sushi
For a fun, interactive twist on your typical sushi dinner, head to Kura Revolving Sushi Bar. Upon sitting down, you’ll have a conveyor belt to one side, where you can pluck whichever plate piques your interest, or a screen that allows you to order plates a la carte. You’ll pay by the plate, which tends to be less than a few dollars each, and win prizes if you hit the right milestones.
Korean Egg Toast
Serving all things egg, Egg Bomb opened earlier this month at 808 North Lamar Blvd., taking over the former Ola Poke location. Egg Bomb specializes in Korean egg drop sandwiches, with toppings like cheese, caramelized onions, avocado, salmon and condiments; “Egg Tots,” or fries with eggs and toppings, as well as coffee and sides. You can also find egg toast and squid ink hotdogs at Oh K-Dog.
Tortas at La Plancha
With a desire to fill the torta-shaped whole they saw in Austin’s fare, co-owning couple Mariha Hinojosa and Julian Richmond opened La Plancha, 1701 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, on July 1. The Mexican sandwiches are served on a bolillo bun with toppings including avocado, barbacoa, queso fresco, refried beans, cheese, pickles and salsa. There are other options: Think papas fritas, street corn and mini-churros.
Ukrainian cuisine to-go
You can take your chicken Kyiv to-to at new takeout-only restaurant U-Cuisine, 5610 N. I-35, which opened in mid-June. Ukrainian chefs and owners Alla Shelest and Mariana Shelestiuk said they are trying to bring a taste of their home country amidst a difficult time in history. Try the chicken Kyiv, a dill and parsley-stuffed chicken breast rolled in breadcrumbs; borsch, a burgundy beetroot soup; Holubtsi, beef and pork cabbage rolls; and lviv syrnyk, a chocolatey raisin cheesecake.
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Known as Waterloo Tower, the fully leased building totals 229,728 square feet and is located off of the Drag, along 24th Street. The Austin-based developer, LV Collective, says this location offers easy access to West Campus restaurants and shops and connects residents to the UT campus.
With 241 units and 796 beds, residents have perks like Daydreamer Coffee in the lobby and a rooftop amenity level. The rooftop has unobstructed views of downtown Austin and the UT campus, plus private cabana-style seating areas, a hot tub and waterfall edge pool.
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