Every team needs one. The wise old veteran who has seen it all and is able to provide guidance to the younger players. Performance level is often less important than leadership and experience, and a captain’s armband is often appointed without a second thought. Last year for WFC2 that role was filled quite admirably by Tyler Rosenlund. The 30 year old was brought in to lead a newly formed team that was among the youngest in the entire league, while at the same time providing some smart passes and clogging up the midfield. However Rosenlund was not brought back this year, leaving an even bigger void in the leadership and experience department than there already was.
His replacement came in the form of Kyle Greig, who like Rosenlund, had had previous USL experience. However, that’s about where the comparisons seem to hit a snag. Despite filling this role as the elder statesman of the team, the Olathe, Kansas native is still only 26 years of age, and his impact on the field has been anything but subtle. The 6’2” forward leads the USL in scoring with nine goals and his physical brand of play has been an ideal compliment to the relatively small WFC2 squad that features a number of teenagers week in and week out. While the goal scoring is nothing new to Grieg, who put in 43 over four years at Benedictine College, a small NAIA school in Kansas, as well as finding the net 22 times over the last three years in the USL with Wilmington and Oklahoma City, being the guy in the locker room that everyone looks up to was definitely something that has taken some getting used to.
“I’ve always been the guy that more lead by example, so I’ve kind of taken over,” said Greig of his role within the team. “It kind of changes my personality a little bit to be as vocal as well [...] I never thought I’d be captain it just kind of happened and so I’m just blessed with the opportunity
Leading by example is a term used a lot in sport, it often is used to justify having the most talented player be appointed captain, however Greig’s low key leadership is earnest and noticeable. The role model position itself that Greig finds himself in is something he claims is new to him, and his naturally soft spoken personality that oozes that cliche midwestern charm, makes you believe him.
“There’s not many other guys [on the team] close to him age wise so he’s really coming in as a mentor and it shows through his actions, he doesn’t really have to speak,” said WFC2 head coach Alan Koch. “You watch him in training everyday, that’s how he will lead us, and he’ll do that on the pitch in games.”
The aforementioned actions on the field take the shape of a well rounded professional striker, who plays a complete game rather than that of a pure poacher. His intelligent runs off the ball and his poise in front of net are the calling cards of his game, but it's his all around play that make him such an ideal role model for the players around him. Everything from watching the league’s leading goal scorer expertly hold up with his back to goal, to challenging for every header like it’s the 90th minute makes a crucially positive impact on his impressionable teammates, many of whom have succeeded this far in their careers without learning the finer points of the game that their captain excels at.
Coming from a strong Oklahoma City squad that finished second in the Conference last year, Greig was rightfully uneasy about the path that this season was going to take, especially with a 15 year-old (winger Alphonso Davies) and a 17 year-old (right back Kadin Chung) regularly cracking the starting lineup. So far the though, the season has been a smashing success for both the team and for its new leader. Through roughly one third of the season, the ‘Caps find themselves in first place in the Conference, exceeding everyone’s expectations (including yours truly who picked them to finish 10th) along the way.
“To be honest I didn’t know what to expect,” said Greig. “Especially in the first game [of the season] against O.C. Blues away. But I’ve told multiple people that I got chills during that game [a 1-0 win in which Grieg scored the only goal] because we really stuck together as a unit and it was a really exciting passionate team that was fighting for each other.”
That win in Orange County to start the season appears to have set the tone for the campaign, with Greig leading the way. From there he would go on to score big goals throughout the ‘Caps magical start to the season, including a late equalizer in Los Angeles, as well as the goal that sparked a late rally at home in a 3-2 win over Tulsa. All the while showing the character that has made a considerable impact on every member of his new team, something that is not lost on his coach.
“If we’re going to have an older player, a guy to lead the younger group, I think he’s the perfect guy for that job.”
Image: WhitecapsFC/Bob Frid