FRISCO, Texas -- Ryan Hollingshead was ready to step away from a professional soccer career forever if that’s what it took to help get his brother’s church off the ground.
He’s thrilled that’s not going to be necessary.
On Monday afternoon, FC Dallas announced the signing of Hollingshead a little less than a year after selecting him in the second round of the 2013 MLS SuperDraft and Ryan joins FCD as perhaps one of the most unique signings in franchise history.
“It was really a rollercoaster over this last year trying to figure out if it’s going to work out or not,” Hollingshead told FCDallas.com. “When they came to me about a month ago, they were basically saying they wanted me out here and I said the same thing that I want to come and want to make this work.”
After a breakout senior season at UCLA that saw Hollingshead score seven goals and eight assists en route to earning PAC-12 Player of the Year honors, the Granite Bay, Calif. native had a shot at going as high as the top five in the 2013 SuperDraft, but he had other plans. Hollingshead was nowhere to be found at the ensuing MLS Combine, or even the draft as he and his then-fiancée Taylor performed mission work in Haiti, but that was just the start of a bigger plan the Hollingsheads had in mind.
“The church is named Harvest Bible Chapel Sacramento. It’s a church plant from out of Chicago from a guy named James McDonald,” said Hollingshead. “He started the first Harvest Church in Chicago and from there they’ve planted about 90 churches nationally and internationally.”
“We had been talking about it [for] years waiting for this because [my brother] had known for a while that he wanted to plant a church and then he finally got the ok that he would be coming back to Sacramento in February. It was very quickly after that that God called me to join him and basically just help him get everything started.”
WATCH: Hollingshead goal & assist vs OSU
With the knowledge around the league that it was very unlikely the California-native would be playing in Major League Soccer in 2013, Hollingshead’s draft stock dropped to the second round where FC Dallas was gladly willing to take the chance on the talented winger. FCD brought Ryan to the Toyota Stadium facilities in mid-February to observe a practice, and while the sales pitch made an impression on the UCLA graduate, it was clear his mind was made up.
Ryan and his now-wife Taylor headed back to northern California to join his brother as they looked to get Harvest Bible Church off the ground.
“The beginning of a church plant can be lonely,” said Hollingshead. “There are a lot of things that need to be done and often times not a lot of people to help with those things. So my wife and I moved back and basically just got to the grind of meeting with people, getting the word out, holding meetings at different places in the area, letting people know about the new church, preaching the bible and we want you to be a part of it. We did that for about seven months and filled the church up to a spot where we could launch a real service.”
While assisting his brother, Ryan also worked a full-time job with a residential real estate company to pay the bills. The load of a 40-hour work week, his duties with the church and remaining fit in hope of a career in soccer was quite the load, but one that Hollingshead said he “wouldn’t change for the world.”
“At our first service [on October 6], we had about 175 people after starting with four in February,” Hollingshead said with a laugh. “I would say about the average right now is 150 people with about 25 kids. It’s awesome and that’s a big number for it to be self-sustaining, meaning the tithes brought in helps to pay for the entire ministry that’s happening. That’s huge because you don’t have to raise any outside support and that was our main goal. Now we’re there.”
Enter FC Dallas.
WATCH: Hollingshead scores vs Washington
Technical Director Fernando Clavijo credited his assistant Luiz Muzzi with never forgetting about Hollingshead, staying in periodic contact throughout the year. With Hollingshead’s dream of a self-sustaining church in Sacramento fulfilled, the door suddenly opened up for Ryan to pursue his other dream.
“Now that it’s self-sustaining, it gives my wife and I a little bit more freedom to pursue something else,” said Hollingshead. “We’re really excited. I’m stoked that it worked out and we were able to set up something that worked both for FC Dallas and for us and now I’m just itching to get down there and ready to play.”
There’s plenty of excitement coming from Frisco as well, as Clavijo and FC Dallas add a player that could potentially make a difference in 2014. Listed at 6'1', 180 pounds, Hollingshead played all over the field in his four years at UCLA, but flourished in 2012 as a big-bodied two-footed attacking winger that loves to run at players, cut inside and have a shot.
“He’s a left-sided player that can play anywhere down that side, but attacking mostly,” said Clavijo. “He’s got a good engine up and down the field. He’s always fit and I think that people are going to be happy with him.”
“He’s a quality individual. He’s great to have around and I know he’s going to fit well with everything we’re doing here. We keep emphasizing that we’re looking to not only bring good players in here, but good people too. Hopefully that is a reflection of the organization and a reflection of what the results will be in 2014.”
Hollingshead said that his year away from the game shouldn’t be too much of an issue as he worked to remain in shape, and now that the FC Dallas contract is finalized he'll be working over the next six weeks to regain his playing shape with a view to 2014 pre-season.
“It was all up in the air, but the way that it worked out and God ordained it, I’m so excited and just ready to prove it,” said Hollingshead with his competitive side coming out a little bit. “Of course, when I first turned it down and said I’m going back to Sacramento there were a lot of people talking about it, saying different things, a lot of them rude things and I’m excited to get out there and just prove that I can play and they’re going to want to put me on the field.”