At the age of just 17, Ezra Armstrong made his professional debut in the closing stages of the Swope Park Rangers’ 2-1 victory over Tulsa Roughnecks FC on Saturday night. With adrenaline pumping through his body and his heart pounding, it was a special moment for a player that joined the Sporting KC Academy almost two years ago through the Sporting Club Network, having played for affiliate club Sporting Nashville Heroes in his hometown.
Ezra’s father is National Hall of Famer and former U.S. National Team member, Desmond Armstrong. Ezra says his father has affected his passion for the sport, because every time he watches old clips of his father’s playing days, it inspires Ezra to play at a similar level.
He enjoys sharing soccer with his father. “He’s given me a lot of insight on what to do and just to be patient. I’m happy I had a coach and a father like him.”
Desmond stated, “I seem rather subdued now, but we were ecstatic when he went into the game. We didn’t know if he would make it into the game when (Tulsa) tied it up, but when he entered everyone was screaming and jumping with joy.”
Ezra is still in high school at Blue Valley North and needs to balance his training schedule with a busy academic life. Blue Valley North is accommodating to his playing commitments and helps him balance both worlds. Ezra is excited that his final exams are over and he can focus on soccer for the summer before starting his senior year in the fall, though he is on track to graduate in December.
The left back is no different from most other high school students, now in search of a summer job after completing his finals this week. Ezra imagines it might seem amusing to some of his friends, “Aren’t you a USL player and you’re working at Pet Land?”
With his professional debut under his belt and college on the horizon, Ezra knows there will come a point where he needs to make a decision on his future. Athletes looking to play in college risk losing their eligibility once they play professionally, but Ezra is cleared to participate with the Rangers while retaining his NCAA eligibility due to the conditions of his academy contract.
When asked about his options in the future, Ezra said, “I’m going to try pro soccer, but if it doesn’t work out I’ll definitely go to college because I’m going to need my education. I’ll also be doing my academics during the season.”
Ezra wants to pursue a degree in entrepreneurship because he’s always loved making and fixing things. “Creating things expands your imagination,” Ezra notes.
When asked to impart advice for Academy players that wish to advance through the system like he did, Ezra said, “Stay on top of your education, come to practice prepared, and fight like there’s no tomorrow.”