Ryan Becher always wanted to be a professional footballer. He watched the game with UMBC. – Baltimore Sun

Growing up in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, Ryan Becher encountered a recurring question in school: What do you want to be when you grow up?

The response from Becher, a professional soccer player, drew some reactions.

“Some teachers said, ‘Not many people in this area do that. So why don’t you write something else?’ “, he recalls. “I was like, ‘Well, that’s what I think my job is going to be.'”

Time will tell if Becher’s aspiration will come true, but the UMBC men’s soccer senior midfielder is forging a season that could improve his candidacy.

Becher leads all NCAA Division I players in total points (31) and points per game (2.1) and is tied for third in the nation in goals (11) and tied for third for assists (nine), although both are career highs. He is the first Retrievers player to reach 30 points in a season since current assistant coach Pete Caringi III amassed 32 in 2012.

With Becher, the UMBC offense scored 2.4 goals per game, which is tied for 13th in the nation, and clinched a berth in the America East Tournament after upsetting then the No. 1. 10 Vermont, 2-1, Saturday night. Coach Pete Caringi Jr. said the offense wouldn’t be as effective without Becher, who was named conference offensive player of the week for the third straight time on Monday.

“It’s not possible – not with what he’s done,” he said. “It’s a very good attack, a very powerful attack. But I don’t think it would be the same without Ryan.

Becher’s foray into football might not be so shocking considering his family ties. His father William Becher scored 280 goals in 458 games while playing for seven franchises in the American Indoor Soccer Association, American Professional Soccer League and Continental Indoor Soccer League. His mother Dawn Becher also played high school football.

So it was perhaps inevitable that Becher and his older brother Jackson would follow their parents’ path.

“With their knowledge of the game, it certainly helped us a lot,” said Ryan Becher. “My dad coached us for a while, and it was good. We have always had the harsh realities. When we weren’t playing well, he let us know. Every time we said, ‘We want to go play in college,’ he was like, ‘Well, you’re not doing enough to get to that level,’ and that would make us do more things on our own. .

Becher chose the Retrievers over West Virginia, Temple, and Drexel in part due to Jackson’s decision to play for them and the university’s academic reputation. Initially recruited as a defensive midfielder, Becher eventually switched to an attacking midfielder.

“As you watched the youngster play, he had a good size and he had a good shot,” Caringi said. “We said to ourselves, ‘This guy has to be close to the goal’, and that’s exactly what happened. Every year we let him play more in an attacking role in midfield, and every year he was doing very well scoring goals and preparing people.

Becher admitted to making a few mistakes early in its development. But he welcomed the change in position.

“I was happy to do whatever I could to help the team,” he said. “In high school, I played pretty much anywhere in midfield, so that was nothing new.

Ryan Becher chose UMBC over West Virginia, Temple and Drexel in part due to Jackson's decision to play for them and the university's academic reputation.  Initially recruited as a defensive midfielder, Becher eventually switched to an attacking midfielder.  (Courtesy of UMBC Athletics)

At 6-foot-3, Becher is one of the tallest outfielders on UMBC’s roster, and he’s used that height to his advantage.

“He’s got us tons of headshots,” said senior fullback Jordan Ehart, a Severna Park resident and Mount Saint Joseph graduate. “When he’s on the ball, he’s really good at using his body to shield defenders from the ball or putting a body on them to win 50-50 balls. So he really does a great job using his body.

Becher isn’t shy about thanking his teammates for delivering accurate balls he can put in the net or completing passes to earn him assists. He acknowledged that he was trying to take advantage of what he had achieved so far.

“It’s definitely special,” he said. “Having a season like this doesn’t happen too often. So I have to cherish those moments. But at the same time, you go into every game with zero points. So getting that next goal or that next assist to help your team and getting that win is really what concerns me.

Becher still has one year of eligibility left. He plans to earn enough credits in the spring to complete a bachelor’s degree in media communications and a minor in American studies in May and turn pro or return in the fall to pursue a master’s degree and use up his final year of eligibility.

Caringi said Becher has the tools to extend his success to the professional level.

“I think his goal has always been to have the opportunity to play at the top level, and I see that every day here when we train,” he said. “He’ll stay after, and he’s just one of those guys who keeps getting better and has a dream and a goal and is working on it.”

Becher has a role model in his cousin Simon Becher, who played in St. Louis and was picked by the Vancouver Whitecaps with the 16th overall pick in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft in January. Ryan Becher joked with his cousin about having at least 10 goals and 10 assists a year after Simon Becher was the only NCAA player to do the same.

That he achieves that goal, Ryan Becher is too close to be deterred from his goal.

“I’m doing it for me now because I love the game, but I’m also doing it for this little kid growing up and it’s his dream,” he said. “It would just mean a lot to me.”

NJIT at UMBC

Friday, 7 p.m.

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