Ricci Happy To Silence ‘Outside Noise’ With First Pro Goal
It took three years at the professional level, but Valour FC forward Austin Ricci was finally able to celebrate his first professional goal tonight.
The 25-year-old striker had done a lot right in the past: he was in the right places, making things difficult for defenders, and firing from good areas, but the goal had yet to come. A scoreless debut season with York9 FC (now York United) gave way to an intra-league move to Valour FC last year, where head coach Rob Gale defended the forward as he went goalless during a condensed Island Games season.
In the club’s 2021 season opener against Forge FC today, however, it was the Austin Ricci show: the Richmond Hill-born athlete earned a penalty for his team just six minutes in, which was converted by New Zealand international Moses Dyer. He then had a terrific solo effort later on in the first half, dispossessing Daniel Krutzen and driving into the box between two defenders to fire home his first professional goal with a smooth left-footed effort:
His celebration – covering his ears – was pointed at the doubters: he had silenced the outside noise, and there’s little doubt that it had built up momentum over the last three years – especially with Gareth Wheeler weighing in recently on the subject.
It feels great. Everyone in our locker room believed in ourselves, and we know we have a strong supporting cast. It didn’t really matter about the outside noise, we had a game plan and it worked well.Austin Ricci
Elaborating on the comment, Ricci explained that the ‘outside noise’ came from comments that had built up after what he described as an unlucky season for him last year, offering that he hopes he and Valour now receive some fresh opinions over the upcoming year.
While the club were hailed by many as underdogs ahead of tonight’s fixture against the reigning champions, Ricci says the label didn’t change expectations for the hosts:
It’s great to start the season off with a win, a clean sheet, and basically assert ourselves. We’re confident in our abilities and we know that we can carry it on forward. To be honest, we came in expecting to get a win and that’s what we did.Austin Ricci
Before arriving to professional football, Ricci had certainly proved devastating in the amateur and semi-pro circuits: he bagged 22 goals and 7 assists after 71 appearances at the NCAA level, then went on to get 12 goals and 7 assists in the PDL level before arriving to League1 Ontario, where he scored 5 goals in just 8 appearances for the Vaughan Azzurri.
In the postgame conference today, he also didn’t mince his words to those who had laid doubt on the club’s attacking roster as a whole:
I don’t know who the people are who are saying that or clearly don’t have an eye for talent, but we have a ton of quality in our offensive unit and we showed well today, and we’ll continue to show for the rest of the bubble and the rest of the season, and then it’ll be nice to hear their opinions afterwards.Austin Ricci
Gale had pointed out the forward’s pedigree, physicality, and capabilities in the past, dusting off his water off a duck’s back quote tonight in reference to ignoring media criticism directed at both himself and the club from OneSoccer.
He was, as one would expect, delighted with Ricci’s performance.
I was pleased for him, that he broke the duck and we’re expecting big things from him this season. I have full confidence and belief in that boy.Rob Gale
Having been described in the past as a confidence player, it’ll be interesting to see how Ricci performs now that his first professional goal has been wrapped. He surmises that the sky is the limit, though obviously there’s many more games left to play in the upcoming season.
Still, tonight he certainly started things off on the right foot (or left, rather).
Having been given a rest by being substituted off in the 68th minute today, Ricci’s next scoring opportunity will likely come against the Halifax Wanderers on Wednesday – and there’ll certainly be a lot of eyes tuning in to see how he follows up on his performance today.
Photo Credit: CPL / Robert Reyes / William Ludwick