Player Profile: Ryan Mertz of UD soccer on finding his forte
At the age of four, junior midfielder Ryan Mertz learned to play soccer with his father, his siblings and a net in their backyard.
“My dad made sure we were spending a lot of time with a ball at our feet,” Mertz said. “It’s the most important thing for young players: spending time with a ball to develop passing, dribbling and other important technical aspects of the game.”
Growing up in Pittsburgh, Mertz spent time at the Pittsburgh Riverhounds Academy and played with Century FC. At Upper St. Clair High School, he was captain of the soccer team during his senior year and was a 2016 PIAA All-State selection and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette All-Area team honoree.
Now, a third-year member of the Delaware men’s soccer team, Mertz has played 71 minutes of conference play this year. He is also second on the team in terms of shots on net and third in points scored.
“None of my siblings were ever the biggest or fastest kids on the field, so having developed technically at a young age was essential to our success as we got older,” Mertz said.
His older brother plays professionally as a midfielder for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC of the USL Championship. Mertz’s younger sister plays soccer at the University of Dayton.
At 5 feet, 8 inches tall, Mertz has made up for any shortcomings with his dedication to the game.
As he practiced in the backyard and on local soccer fields, he soon started to practice on the piano bench.
“When I was younger, my grandma said that she was going to teach all 14 of her grandchildren to play piano,” Mertz said.
At the age of six, he began to take lessons from his grandmother, learning classical pieces alongside his siblings and cousins.
“My dad came from a musically gifted family,” Mertz said. “My grandmother has played piano since she was little and my grandpa played the banjo and was in a band in his 20s.”
By the eighth grade, Mertz’s interest in his father’s classic rock songs from the 70s and 80s flourished, pushing him in a new direction.
“I started to play with someone else,” Mertz said. “[Grandma] was so supportive of that, she just wants to see her grandkids doing something that she taught them to do.”
To this day, Mertz practices on the keys as often as he can, playing everything from Billy Joel and Elton John, to Bruce Hornsby and Coldplay.
“Continuing to play even after taking lessons from her was so cool,” Mertz said. “And she loves that, and from her, that’s one of the gifts that I’m most thankful for.”