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.
First new signing for 2021 is in the books 🤩
— Birmingham Legion FC (@bhmlegion) December 3, 2020
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.
We are pleased to present our 2020 Player of the Year award to Ryan James! pic.twitter.com/gYqD0DwoeH
— Steel Army (@SteelArmy) October 4, 2020
Below is the latest update to the Riverhound SC 2020 and current player statuses.
For those wondering about Riverhounds being quiet re: player contract options for 2021, they didn't share anything last year until Dec. 4.
Also, club spokesman confirmed today that coaching staff is still working on some things & an announcement should come soon.
— John Krysinsky (@JohnKrysinsky) December 3, 2020
HOUNDS ROSTER UPDATES (as of 12/3/2020)
- 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