Ryan Silva was a little hesitant about a position change.
After all, the Kearny High School soccer standout was entrenched as a midfielder for the Kardinals, a playmaker first and not much of a goal scorer.
But the Kardinals had a glut of midfielders to begin this season and head coach Bill Galka looked at Silva as a possibility to move to the forward line.
“He had been moving back and forth,” Galka said. “When we needed him this season was up front and he seemed to be excellent up there. He’s a technical player and he’s much stronger than he was last year. He holds the ball well. It was an experiment at first.”
Silva decided to do what was best for the Kardinals.
“I had to do my job,” Silva said. “I know it’s not my natural position, but we play as a team. Passing and moving the ball is what I like to do. I’m not generally a goal scorer. I still had to play my hardest, no matter what position I was playing. I still play hard and play as a team. The move was not for me, but it was more for the team.”
Galka had an idea that Silva would be able to handle the transition.
“I know that he plays soccer all year round,” Galka said. “I know he went to Portugal over the summer and played every day over there. He was fast when he came back and stepped right in and was effective right away. His technique was always good. I didn’t know if he could score goals.”
Galka knows now.
Silva, now a junior, had three-goal hat tricks in recent wins against Hudson Catholic and Union City, both in the span of six days. This is coming from a player who scored just two goals all of last season.
Silva currently has nine goals and five assists, making a major contribution for the still undefeated state-ranked Kardinals, who own a 10-0-2 record and the state’s No. 4 ranking. The Kardinals played No. 2 Seton Hall Prep to a 2-2 draw last week.
For his efforts, Silva has been selected The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Galka is very impressed with his new striker’s production.
“He’s been able to finish off some good plays,” Galka said. “We’re certainly happy with that. I think the team now realizes that he can score goals and they are letting him create plays on his own. He has scored goals with both feet. Inside the box, he’s a presence. He has good size and he’s stronger and more physical than most players.”
Galka believes that Silva’s production has enabled him to utilize other key components, like the team’s leading scorer, Jose Escandon, who has tallied 12 goals and added 10 assists this season.
“We’ve been able to move some people around,” Galka said. “Depending on the game and the score, we put other people in different position. We have a lot of guys who are midfielders/forwards. We’re trying to take advantage of what we have. That’s what we’re doing with Ryan. He knows what he’s doing. He’s a smart player. He’s good with the ball and he’s quick enough to get to the ball. He’s very versatile. He can play different positions, but right now, we’re comfortable with him up top.”
Silva is somewhat shocked at his goal production.
“I’m a little surprised, because last year, I had only two all year,” Silva said. “I’m surprised I could score a lot of goals. I just have to keep it going. The season is far from over. But now, I definitely have the mindset that I can score. I have to pressure more and keep making moves toward the goal. I’m always looking for the ball and thinking about scoring.”
Silva said that he’s getting used to being a striker.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Silva said. “I play the hardest anywhere. It doesn’t matter at all.”
Although he’s only a junior, Silva is already thinking about the possibility of playing soccer in college.
“I would like to play soccer in college,” Silva said. “I’m a good student, but I know I have to keep my grades up. I have had some contacts with colleges, but my real dream is to play professional soccer. Ever since I was little, that’s what I dreamed of. I know I have to do well in school first.”
Galka knows that his move with Silva is paying off.
“It was an experiment,” Galka said. “He said, ‘I’ll give it a go,’ and it’s worked out very well. I’m pleasantly surprised. I always knew he was a good player. I thought he would be a strong player for us in the midfield. You just never know.”
Silva is getting used to his new position.
“I’m a little surprised, but not that much,” Silva said. “I knew that I could handle it. Sometimes, I have a bad game, but we all lift each other up. I’m happy with the results right now.”
Kearny junior forward Ryan Silva