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Ryan James signs with Birmingham Legion FC

Not sure how many know that Birmingham, Alabama has been known as the ‘Pittsburgh of the South’ also due to its prominence at one time in manufacturing steel and iron.

Now, that saying might apply in soccer circles too.  For the third consecutive year, the Birmingham Legion plucked a former Pittsburgh Riverhounds player as one of its free agent signings.

This time around it’s Ryan James, who had two outstanding seasons in Pittsburgh primarily as a left wingback, but also a player who filled in as a defensive midfielder at times.

The Hounds originally signed James to a contract in 2019, and they picked up his contract option for the 2020 season.  On November 30, James’ contract with Pittsburgh expired, and he was free to sign with any team.

After the 2018 season, Joe Holland signed with Birmingham, then following the 2019 campaign, former Robert Morris University standout who became Pittsburgh’s leading scorer, Neco Brett signed with the Legion.

James signing, a multi-year deal, pending league and federation approval., came on Thursday, two days after USL clubs were open to announce free agent signings.

“Ryan is a dynamic, versatile defender that also has the ability to get forward in the attack,” said Legion President and GM Jay Heaps through a team statement. “We’re excited to add Ryan to our group as his experience in this league will be a great addition to our locker room.”

James was a nailed-on starter for the Riverhounds the past two years.

The Canadian native played in 55 of Pittsburgh’s 56 matches across all competitions in 2019 and 2020. In his first year in Pittsburgh, he hit his career high in assists (6) and then followed that statistical milestone up with a career high in goals (5) in an abbreviated 2020 campaign. A two-goal performance against Hartford Athletic to go along with a shutout earned the fullback the USL Championship Player of the Week Award in Week 10 this past season.

He was also honored as the Steel Army’s Team MVP this past season.

Below is the latest update to the Riverhound SC 2020 and current player statuses.

It’s back to the drawing board for Riverhounds SC in building roster for 2021 | Pittsburgh Soccer Now

Eight Men In: Riverhounds SC exercise contract options for returning core

HOUNDS ROSTER UPDATES (as of 12/3/2020) 

Not Returning: 

  • Ryan James – Signed with Birmingham Legion
  • Robbie Mertz – announced via social media (club destination TBA)
  • Thomas Vancaeyezeele – announced via social media he’s not returning (club destination TBA)

Contract Option for 2021 (Hounds have yet to announce if they’ve picked up or not) 

  • Xhelil Asani
  • Hunter Ashworth
  • Dakota Barnathan
  • Patrick Bunk-Andersen
  • Albert Dikwa
  • Jordan Dover
  • Lukas Fernandes
  • Danny Griffin
  • Tomás Gómez
  • Ropapa Mensah
  • Anthony Mwembia
  • Skylar Thomas
  • Tony Walls
  • Danny Vitiello

Contract Expired (Hounds don’t hold contract option for 2021) 

  • Steevan Dos Santos
  • Kenardo Forbes
  • Mark Forrest
  • Ray Lee
  • Dani Rovira
  • Anthony Velarde

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

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