Summer 2024

Ryan Hollingshead drawing peace from the Lord during strong start with LAFC

Defender Ryan Hollingshead didn’t score multiple goals in any of his 193 Major League Soccer regular-season games with FC Dallas. But on Sunday night, he netted a brace in just his fourth appearance for his new team, LAFC.

>> Subscribe to Sports Spectrum Magazine for more stories where sports and faith connect <<

After the Vancouver Whitecaps opened the scoring, Hollingshead tied the game in the 27th minute when he headed home Carlos Vela’s corner kick.

Then, with LAFC up 2-1 in the 70th minute, the 30-year-old unloaded a rocket from just outside the box that came after another corner kick.

The goals were the 20th and 21st of his nine-year MLS career.

“It’s a good feeling,” Hollingshead said after the game. “As a defender, I’m not in goalscoring opportunities enough to get braces very often, but I do sneak some goals in there.”

During the postgame press conference, he was also asked about the role faith plays in his life and how it impacts him when he’s on the field.

“It factors into everything I do. That’s been one of the things coming into L.A., it’s been fun in this organization getting to know a lot of other believers on this team,” he said. “So for me as a Christian, it gives me a lot of peace in the way that I play. There’s not this anxiety of I have to do all these things, or I have to perform in all these ways. I get to just kind of play out of a confidence in who I am as a player, what the Lord has given me, and how I can not only be a good player on the field but also a good man on and off the field. So it really does affect everything that I do.”

Faith was not a major part of Hollingshead’s childhood. He went to church every once in a while but didn’t have any kind of personal relationship with God.

That all changed when one of his older brothers became a Christian and got Ryan his first Bible. It sat on a shelf for a couple years until Hollingshead finally decided to pick it up.

“My junior year of high school, I began to just slowly read through the Bible, and through that time of reading through the Bible was just convinced of its truth and convinced that Jesus was God,” he said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in 2018. “That’s when faith came into play for me.”

While Hollingshead was starring in college at UCLA, his brother, Scott, began feeling called to plant a church. They would have conversations about what it would look like and how they wanted to approach it when the time came. Hollingshead made his brother a promise: When Scott felt led to start the church, he would be there to help get it off the ground.

As he was preparing for the January 2013 MLS SuperDraft, Hollingshead got a call from his brother. The church plant was starting in February.

True to his word, Hollingshead told MLS teams not to draft him because he was going to start a church. He was in Haiti with his now-wife, Taylor, serving at an orphanage when the draft took place. He had no clue until he returned home that FC Dallas had taken a chance on him in the second round.

But the two brothers spent the next eight months finalizing a vision for the church and drumming up interest before officially launching Harvest Bible Chapel Sacramento in October 2013.

Meanwhile, FC Dallas stayed in touch with Hollingshead to see if he was getting any closer to being ready to join the team. He kept saying no and was ready to completely give up his professional soccer career.

Soon after the church launched, however, Scott told Ryan they were able to hire another pastor that could take over his responsibilities if he wanted to go play soccer. Days later, FC Dallas called again and gave Hollingshead one last chance.

He took it and made his MLS debut in 2014. Hollingshead became a regular starter the following season and helped FC Dallas win both the Supporters’ Shield as regular-season champions and the U.S. Open Cup in 2016.

Then on Jan. 6, 2017, his career that almost never started nearly came to a premature end.

Hollingshead was driving in icy conditions to pick up a friend who’d gotten in a crash when the vehicle in front of him and his wife hydroplaned and crashed into the median. Hollingshead realized the car landed in the fast lane without any lights on and was concerned for the driver’s safety.

So he parked his own car on the shoulder and went to open the door of the other vehicle. As he was talking to the driver, another car came flying through the shoulder and hit Hollingshead, sending him 30 feet down the road.

At first, he thought he was paralyzed. Feeling soon returned to limbs, but Hollingshead and his wife — who didn’t see him get hit — could tell he was in bad shape.

He was diagnosed with three broken vertebrae in his neck and thought his career was over — until doctors told him he could be back on the field in a matter of months. Miraculously, he never lost consciousness and didn’t even need surgery.

“The Lord’s mercy on me even through that accident was very tangible and evident,” Hollingshead said on the podcast. “We’re so grateful because I’m back and playing and feeling really good.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Ryan Hollingshead (@rmhollingshead)

The Granite Bay, California, native played in 18 games during that 2017 season and scored a career-high six goals in 2019. He logged 2,671 minutes — the second-most of his career — and made 30 starts in 2021.

On Feb. 10, Hollingshead was acquired in a trade by LAFC, bringing him back to his home state. He has started the team’s last two games and helped lead LAFC to the joint-best record in MLS (3-0-1) heading into the international break.

LAFC returns to action against Orlando City on April 2.

— FC Cincinnati’s Ray Gaddis preparing for new chapter with focus on God
— NYCFC’s 19-year-old Talles Magno giving thanks to God along journey to MLS Cup
— Walker Zimmerman named MLS Defender of the Year for 2nd straight season
— SS PODCAST: MLS All-Star Walker Zimmerman on parenting, faith, representing the U.S.
— Walker Zimmerman leads Nashville into playoffs, grateful for ‘how sacrificial God’s love is’