Black Friday 2022

LAFC's Ryan Hollingshead leaning on God as he reaches MLS Cup for 1st time

Defender Ryan Hollingshead made six trips to the Major League Soccer playoffs in the first eight seasons of his career, all with FC Dallas. He reached the conference finals in 2015, but didn’t get past the quarterfinals the other five times.

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LAFC acquired a group of MLS veterans, including Hollingshead, this past offseason to help turn all their regular-season success into an MLS Cup appearance. The plan worked, as they booked their spot in the final with a dominant 3-0 win over Austin FC on Sunday.

Hollingshead played the full game, leading the team with 61 touches and four blocks.

“[Austin] just couldn’t even breathe,” he said after the game. “There wasn’t a moment that you felt like they had control of the game throughout 90 minutes. It was cool to see the intensity of it being a Western Conference Final, of it being the playoffs, where everybody came to play and came with everything they had. And you could see it from the start.”

The 31-year-old California native made 30 appearances and 22 starts this season as LAFC won the Supporters’ Shield as the team with the best regular-season record (21-9-4). His six goals were tied for the most among defenders in the league, and tied his career-best.

 

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Hollingshead indicated in a devotional for the Fall 2022 issue of Sports Spectrum Magazine that he did not see the trade to LAFC coming, but it’s been a blessing in disguise.

“The Lord is so good and faithful,” he wrote. “I’m from California and I went to school at UCLA, so we’re now back in L.A., where we just have a ton of family and friends and connections. It really has been special and we’re super excited to be here. It’s been a really fun transition for my family.”

In 2018, Hollingshead came on the Sports Spectrum Podcast to discuss his faith journey and explained that his relationship with God started when one of his older brothers became a Christian and got him his first Bible.

“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 podcast. “That’s when faith came into play for me.”

While at UCLA, Hollinghead and his brother, Scott, started talking about what it would look like to plant a church. He made a promise to his brother that whenever Scott felt called to launch the church, he would be there.

Hollingshead was preparing for the January 2013 MLS SuperDraft when Scott informed him the church plant was happening. He told MLS teams not to draft him, but Dallas selected him in the second round anyway. Only after Harvest Bible Chapel Sacramento was up and running did he begin his professional soccer career.

It nearly ended on Jan. 6, 2017, when Hollingshead and his wife were driving in icy conditions as the vehicle in front of them hydroplaned and crashed into the median. He got out of his car to help the people involved in the crash and was hit by another vehicle, landing 30 feet down the road.

 

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Miraculously, Hollingshead was back on the field four months later despite breaking three vertebrae in his neck.

“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.”

Asked at a press conference earlier this season about the role faith plays in his life, he said it takes the pressure off him on the field because he doesn’t have to prove anything to God or anyone else.

“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,” Hollingshead 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.”

Standing between LAFC and MLS Cup are the Philadelphia Union, who finished with the same number of points as LAFC and lost out on the Supporters’ Shield due to the wins tiebreaker. Kickoff from Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles is at 4 p.m. ET Saturday.

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