Alex Ring has become of the top holding midfielders in MLS. (Photo courtesy of MLS)
Don’t expect goalkeeper Sean Johnson, defender Alex Callens or midfielder Alex Ring to go anywhere soon.
Those three players have agreed to new, long-term deals with New York City FC, the Major League Soccer club.
The team did not mention the length of the deals, except they will under contract with the club for next season and beyond.
“All three are entering the prime years of their careers, so it’s fantastic to keep consistency and stability within the team,” NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna said. “It’s exciting news for all of us to tie them down to long-term deals.”
Callens, Johnson and Ring have been vital components to the spine of the team and have played pivotal roles in City’s successful spell the past two seasons. They have combined to play 190 matches across all competitions.
“They’re leaders off the field and they’ve been top professionals from the first day they arrived,” Reyna said. “They’ve elevated our Club with their professionalism and determination to make themselves, this club and this team better and better.”
Known amongst fans as “NYCFC’s Iron Man,” Callens began his NYCFC career showing off his meddle. Starting March 5, 2017, the Peruvian enjoyed remarkable run of 3,585 consecutive minutes played in MLS regular-season matches. Callens helped anchor a defense which kept 10 clean sheets.
Callens has also contributed at the other end of the pitch throughout his time in New York. In 65 matches with the Club, the central defender has found the back of the net three times, most recently to earn a 1-1 draw with Atlanta United June 9.
“I am very happy, very happy that the club has confidence in me and I think the only way to repay that is to work at 100 percent and give it my all,” Callens said.
“The fans have always supported me, they’re always cheering us on, in the bad times and the good, they are always there supporting. That gives us confidence, and when we go out on the field we hope to give them joy.”
Johnson matched a career high in shutouts in his first season with seven, something the U.S. international hadn’t done since 2011 with the Chicago Fire. His form in the first half of 2017 saw him return to the U.S. national team for the 2017 concacaf Gold Cup.
For the first time in his career, Johnson has kept double-digit clean sheets (10) this season. In July, Johnson broke club records, playing 396 consecutive minutes without conceding a goal (which included four shutouts).
“I knew that once I played my first game with the club, it was somewhere I wanted to be for a very long time,” he said. “Everybody from the organizational side has made me feel at home: the fans, the front office and my teammates.
“For me, the commitment, with us three going forward, the expectations is always to lift trophies. I think us three kind of embody that and we want to spread that. Hopefully, we are here for a very long time and we are able to instill those things in anybody that comes into the club from here on out.”
Ring became the fifth NYCFC player to be selected to an MLS All-Star team this ear. Known league-wide for being a hard and physical paleyr, the Finnish midefielder has shown his versatility by playing as a make-shift center back at times as well as scoring two goals playing in more forward positions.
Ring’s two NYCFC goals have come in crucial moments. Trailing by a goal in hostile confines at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ring sent a rocket past goalkeeper Brad Guzan as City came from behind to earn a point against Atlanta United. His second goal turned out to be the one that clinched City’s spot in the playoffs.
“I am very happy with the way the club and the fans have taken care of me and my family,” he said. The way they have embraced us – it wasn’t a big decision for me to continue here and sign with this great club.
“Just like I said once I signed here for the first time, I don’t do a lot of talking outside of the pitch, I try to do it on the field and I try to represent my club the best I can and I think that’s what they also appreciate. I am maybe not the most technical guy, but they know I’m going to play my heart out on the pitch. I just want to thank the fans for acknowledging that and always pushing me and the team.”