It happened in a blink. The pass from San Antonio FC forward Ever Guzman. The kick into the Portland Timbers 2 net. The celebration at Toyota Field.
Ryan Roushandel had no time to think after scoring the game-winner in the 71st minute on Oct. 11. He had no time to ponder its significance. No time to recall the last time he scored a goal, which felt a little like forever. All he could do was run, run for the stands and into the embrace of screaming boys who mobbed him as if he were a star.
Roushandel, a 31-year-old defender/midfielder, started the season so far down the depth chart he did not suit up. He did not travel. All he did was practice, coach the SAFC Pro Academy youth teams and serve as an occasional color analyst in the broadcast booth.
Thirty games into the season, Roushandel was a little-used player. In the 31st game, he became a hero, a history-maker. With his first goal in three years, he clinched home-field advantage for SAFC’s first playoff match.
Consider the absurdity: This season, Roushandel has analyzed more games on TV (three) than he has scored goals (one). But that one touched off a celebration that tugs at the heart. It’s hard to watch the video and not be moved.
After snapping a 1-1 tie with a shot over the head of goalkeeper Wade Hamilton, Roushandel raced toward the stands, his left hand motioning for the boys he coaches to come down. And down they came to swarm him, more than two dozen jubilant 12-, 13-, and 14-year-olds, each dressed in red hoodies and black shorts.
“It was a pretty special moment,” Roushandel said, “just giving those kids a big hug. They make my life better and awesome in so many different ways. I think we’ll remember that one for a while.”
SAFC plays host to the Tulsa Roughnecks on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in a United Soccer League quarterfinal match. How much Roushandel will play is unclear. But since he has started the last four matches and played in the last 10, he figures to see action. Not that he would mind if he was told to stand and cheer.
When Roushandel signed with SAFC in May 2016, he was to be an academy coach first, a player second. Roushandel knows the game so well and has become such a strong leader, teammates call him Coach. Which is what he wants to do when he can no longer play.
“I love coaching,” Roushandel said. “I will pretty much do whatever it takes for this club to keep getting better and the city to grow with this organization. And any time they need me to do something, I’m here. I love it. These last two years have been some of the best years of my professional career.”
Perhaps no one on the team gets less sleep than Roushandel, who commutes to practice every day from his apartment in Austin. He rises at 5 a.m., eats breakfast, leaves the house at 6, and arrives in the locker room at 7:30. He stays until the academy team practice ends at 8:30 p.m.
“By the time I get outta here, it could be 9, 9:30,” he said. “So I’ll get home at 10:30, 11 o’clock, some nights, wake up at 5, and do it again.”
He is grateful for an understanding girlfriend. Rebecca Rophie works a full-time job herself, but has dinner waiting for Roushandel when he gets home.
“I’m a lucky guy,” he said. “She’s put up with me for five years now, and hopefully a lot longer. She’s been amazing.”
Three years ago, Roushandel was the starting center back for the Atlanta Silverbacks, an assistant soccer coach for Oglethorpe University, and a youth soccer coach at night. The player-coach gig he knows. The broadcasting gig is something else.
One night, the FOX Sports Southwest crew needed a replacement. Since he wasn’t playing, Roushandel filled in. He delivered strong insight and made two more appearances on the air. The team is 2-0-1 with Roushandel calling the action. “I’m good luck,” he said.
No one can match his versatility. “He’s a guy that can wear many hats, and he wears them all very well,” SAFC Coach Darren Powell said. “He plays on the field, then coaches, and he’s an inspiration for all those young players in the academy.”
Roushandel intends to keep playing “until my legs fall off.” He hopes those legs help carry SAFC to a USL championship. But even if the team falls short, he’ll treasure one memory forever: overjoyed academy players rushing down the stands, then piling onto him after he scored a history-making goal at Toyota Field.