Seattle, where the Sounders set an MLS attendance record with an average of 43,144 fans in 2012 and a new team will play in U.S. Soccer's women's league, owes a great debt to Mike Ryan, who passed away at the age of 77 in Seattle on Tuesday morning, the day before the new league was announced. Ryan was one of Seattle's original soccer pioneers and the first coach of the U.S. women's national team.
Ryan was born in Dublin, Ireland, and was in his 20s when he moved to Seattle, where he worked as a metallurgist in a foundry.
He had already taken up coaching when he moved to Seattle in 1962. He took over the then-infant men's program at the University of Washington in 1966 and coached it for the next 11 seasons. He was the first president of Washington Youth Soccer. Long after leaving the Huskies, Ryan remained involved in coaching, most recently as the girls coach at Nathan Hall High School.
Ryan was coaching a regional team in the women's soccer competition at the 1985 Olympic Sports Festival in Baton Rouge, La., when he was asked to take a women's national team to Italy. He had already taken two weeks off work and had to call his boss to tell him he'd be away for two more weeks. It was a last-minute trip, to say the least.
Aldo Sciarrino, who was the Lamborghini representative in the USA, had invited the Americans to Italy for a tournament on behalf of the Italian soccer federation. U.S. Soccer didn't have any extras in its budget -- it was broke at the time -- but some costs were shifted around. Alitalia chipped in some of the airfare, and Chuck Blazer, who headed the U.S. national teams committee at the time and remains on the FIFA executive committee after his departure from Concacaf, and Sciarrino came up with some money to cover the rest of the expenses for the trip to Jesolo.
Uniforms -- men's uniforms -- were found for the women to play in, and they spent the night before the flight to Italy sewing "USA" on their shorts.
The Sounders honored Ryan with an honorary Golden Scarf in 2009.
"If Washington state is the Autobahn of soccer, without Mike Ryan it would still be a dusty, country road," former Seattle Pacific coach Cliff McCrath told the Seattle Times.