10 Things About Richie Laryea: His love for Toronto, his mom, and, yes, Drake

Richie Laryea - 2016 adidas MLS Player Combine

One of the most talked about players ahead of the 2016 SuperDraft is University of Akron midfielder Richie Laryea, who's considered one of the top attacking talents in the collegiate ranks.
In MLSsoccer.com's latest "10 Things About ..." series, get to know the player who hopes to follow in the footsteps of another former Zip, Darlington Nagbe, who's an MLS Cup champion and plays for his national team.

Laryea is following in his family's footsteps.

“My mom’s father played in a league in Ghana, so he played professionally there, and then came to the states and played semi-pro. My dad played a bit growing up; not too competitively, but he played as well.”

He’s also true to his cultural roots.

Laryea was born to Ghanaian parents in Toronto, Canada. Besides English, he speaks their native language, Ga.

Still, he credits his soccer start to a chance comment.

“The first memory I have of playing is being six [years old] and going out to the field with my dad and kicking the ball a bit, and one of his friends told him to put me in soccer. That’s where it started, and I’m here today.”

He almost played another sport, too, because of Canada.

“They always try to put everyone through hockey, so I had a hockey stage. It wasn’t too bad, because I think there was a rule across some of the schools that we had to go skating every Friday. I was pretty good at skating, but the whole contact and all, I wasn’t too good at that.”

His No. 1 soccer idol is Patrick Vieira.

“My brother and my dad are very big Arsenal fans, so I grew up watching Arsenal and that’s who my dad first introduced me to, so I kept watching him.”

Just don’t call him a Gooner—Culé is more accurate.

“I’m actually not an Arsenal fan. My brother and my dad support Arsenal, my mom supports Liverpool, and I support FC Barcelona. I watch the English Premier League, but I don’t have a team.

I got attracted to Barcelona because of their style of play, and I started watching them maybe around 2004, 2005. I liked the philosophy they have about the club—possession soccer, making sure that you know you’re not bigger than the team or bigger than the club. Everyone’s humble.

Then especially after they signed Ronaldinho, that attracted me further because I liked his style of play, and it was exciting to watch.”

He picked the University of Akron with a pro future in mind.

“I’m a smaller guy, so I’m not really there to knock people over, like thump the ball forward. I’m about close control, keeping the ball, distributing it among your teammates, close touches, stuff like that.  

Akron reminded me of the club team I played for in Toronto. I played with Sigma FC in Toronto, and we traveled a bit to play against college teams. So the club coach there told me that if I have any desire to go pro, the place for me to go would be the University of Akron.”

He seeks out cinematic inspiration.

To motivate himself, Laryea revisits Coach Carter, the true-story 2005 Samuel L. Jackson vehicle about a high school basketball coach who benched his winning team because of poor academic performance.

“I just like the story behind it, for all the guys and what they came from and what they ended up doing.”

For your next binge-watching session, he recommends How to Get Away With Murder, and Top Boy, a British series available on Netflix.

He reps hard for the 6.

Nobody will accuse Laryea of not putting on for Toronto, especially in his earbuds. On his down time, he likes to bump some Drake inspiration. What about beyond Drake? Yep, more artists from his extended constellation.

“I’ve also been listening to Bryson Tiller, the Weeknd, and other people like that. Basically anything Toronto-related.”

This one thing might be the key to his on-field success to date.

“Before games I have to speak to my mom for a certain amount of time before I go out on the field--it’s almost an hour that I speak to her. She just reminds me what my end goal is and all that and tells me to be confident in myself, and that whatever I do, to do it to my fullest. So as long as I do what I need to do, I’ll make her and my father and sister and brother happy.”