AX is excited to announce that Goalkeeper Tyler Back has signed with Rovaniemi, also known as RoPS, of the Finnish Premiere League after an impressive showing at a combine in Salinas, California.
Despite an overall good showing at the Salinas event, Back also faced some adversity after misplaying a ball that would eventually lead to a goal by the opposing side. Mistakes by goalkeepers are always magnified at any level of competition, and this was no exception.
“I actually had a really bad miss-kick on a ball played back to me that resulted in a goal. If I only had the chance to impress a coach with one game and that happened I’m sure there’s a good chance they would pass on me,” Back said.
The 22 year old has a point, as AX Combines are made up of far more than one game. In fact, they’re three days long, which gives coaches and scouts adequate time to not only view players in scrimmages, but also see how they respond when pushed to their limits.
The former University of Mary Washington star kept his mind on the ultimate goal: playing professionally in Europe. Rovaniemi coach Juha Malinen saw this in Back, and deemed him ready to deal with the ups and downs of a rigorous international schedule.
“Since I was a kid, the idea of playing a professional sport was always compared to winning the lottery. In a way it feels like I’ve won the lottery but its better because it’s something I’ve earned,” he said.
It’s a dream Tyler has had for years. But don’t be mistaken; he knows how tough it would have been to become a reality were it not for the help of those around him.
“I would recommend the combines to players who want to be seen by professional coaches in Europe. If you have the ability to play at the professional level you will be noticed,” Back said. “A lack of a connection should never be the reason that someone doesn’t reach the professional level.”
As for his new squad, RoPS finished second in the Finnish Premier League last season, just one point behind the league winners SJK. RoPS did qualify for the distinguished Europa League, which pins some of the best teams in Europe against each other in a round-robin tournament. The winner of the Finnish League qualifies for the UEFA Champions League.
“The thing about playing in Finland that excites me the most is being surrounded by an actual professional atmosphere. I’m extremely excited to be able to just focus on playing soccer without having to worry about classes, or any other outside work. Just from a month in this environment, I can already see myself progressing at a faster rate than while I was in college,” Back said.
Back has yet to debut for his new team but is being groomed as a possible goalkeeper of the future. Considering his tenacity and resilience, don’t be surprised to see him on the field for RoPS sooner rather than later.