From Ram to Red Bull: A Native New Yorker’s Journey Through MLS

After Years as a Journeyman, Fordham’s All-Time Highest Scorer Finds a Home Where It All Began


John Wolyniec (in white) battles a DC United player in a match last June. The Fordham alum has scored 24 career goals for the NY Red Bulls, including the franchise’s first ever goal in the MLS Cup Final. (Chuck Myers/MCT)

Published: April 9, 2009

As the New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer come together for the start of a promising season, when they intend to build off of last year’s deep playoff run, it’s good to remember that star forward John Wolyniec is one of our own.

After leading the nation in goals scored in ’97 and ’98 while a forward on Fordham’s Men’s Soccer Team, mathematics major and Staten Island native Wolyniec became the seventh overall pick in the MLS 1999 College Draft.  But from that point on, his career path has been that of a journeyman.

“Fordham was a great place for me,” said Wolyniec, FCRH ’99, who was named Fordham’s Male Athlete of the Year in 1998. “I got better as a player and as a person during the time I spent there.  Early on, I kept in touch with a lot of the alumni, but it’s hard with my line of work,” he said with a laugh.  “I tend to move around a lot.”

Wolyniec’s resolve was tested more than a few times during his 10 year career.  After being drafted by the then NY MetroStars, Wolyniec was cut before playing a single big league game. Wolyniec found himself with the team’s minor league affiliate, the Long Island Rough Riders.  After a single season in NY, Wolyniec played for the Chicago Fire before joining New England’s A-League affiliate, the Rochester Rhinos.

Wolyniec bounced around three cities and two leagues before ending up back in NY for a more stable three-year tenure with the MetroStars beginning in 2003. Before being signed by the newly renamed NY Red Bulls in 2006, Wolyniec played seasons for both Columbus and Los Angeles.

“[Wolyniec] was a typical guy growing up in NY who had to earn everything he received,” said Fordham soccer coach Jim McElderry. “I didn’t coach John, but I’ve gotten to know him over the past few years.  He really pushed himself.  He’s done great things and should be recognized more for what he’s accomplished.”

Wolyniec’s accomplishments as of late include scoring or assisting on a goal in each of the Red Bull’s playoff games last season en route to NY’s first MLS cup final.  Wolyniec also finished tied for NY’s team lead in goals in 2004 and was the MVP of the A-League during the 2002 season.

Since leaving Fordham, Wolyniec has seen MLS gain popularity, a fact that does not necessarily help journeymen players make an impact.

“Soccer is growing as a sport,” Wolyniec said. “It’s becoming tougher and tougher. It’s not something that comes easy. You have to sacrifice for it.  It’s something where you just have to decide how much you want it.”

“I had to sacrifice a lot, leaving family and friendships behind,” Wolyniec said of his career. “It’s a tough deal sometimes. For all the soccer players at Fordham who are looking to make it… you might not play in your hometown; it certainly took me a long time to get back here.  Most of the time, you can’t expect to. I was ready to pack it in a few times, but I love the game too much; I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I love playing this game and I’ve been very fortunate to make a living at it.  And for all the people I’ve met and experiences I’ve had along the way, I’m very grateful.”

It may have been a long struggle for this Ram to become a Red Bull, but as Wolyniec has found a more permanent home with the New York club, the long and winding road took him back home again.