When Shalrie Joseph suffered a broken nose in the training session the day before last Saturday's 1-1 draw at home to the Kansas City Wizards, little-known developmental player Ryan Latham was suddenly about to be thrust into the New England Revolution midfield for encounter.
Latham did not feature in the match, as Joseph returned in time for the contest, but the progress was discernible. After an 11-minute stint in a scoreless draw against Colorado on May 28, Latham had received ample consideration and confidence for a starting role.
A star striker at Southern Methodist University, Latham has reinvented himself as a right winger, providing another option for Nicol when Steve Ralston is unavailable.
With pace and the ability to turn the corner, it was natural for Revolution head coach Steve Nicol to turn Latham from striker to wing midfielder. The move created depth at right wing, as the Revs will lose Ralston for U.S. national team duty at points during the season.
"I played up top in college," said Latham. "I bring speed, and I can get around defenders. It's a good spot for me. We like to drive up the sides."
The move to right wing did not start midseason. Nicol played the Rockwall, Texas, native on the right flank during the preseason. The move allowed him to adjust quickly to the professional game in his new position.
"It started in Bermuda," said Latham. "I played in all the games, and I started out wide. In Ecuador, I got sick, but played 20-30 minutes in each game."
Performing on the right wing, Latham struggled to adjust to the rigors of two-way play required for optimal performance in midfield. Veteran help guided him through the rough patches.
"Defensively, it took me a while to adjust," said Latham. "[The coaches] are fine with the offense, but they worry about me defensively. It's slowly growing. I always have to be aware. [Matt] Reis and [Jay] Heaps tell me where to go."
The converted striker learned the game in suburban Dallas, and stayed there when SMU called after a successful prep and youth club career.
"I lived 30 to 45 minutes outside of Dallas," said Latham. "I started at a YMCA when I was six or seven. I played for a club in Rockwall before I moved to Lynx and then Longhorns in Dallas. I was [looking to head outside the state], depending on the offers, but SMU was too good to pass up."
Latham made a social adjustment to start his professional career. After being selected by the Revolution in the second round of the supplemental draft, Latham moved from the Southwest to the Northeast to play in MLS.
The move has worked out from all angles for Latham.
"This is about the farthest I could go from Dallas, outside of San Jose," said Latham. "It's been an adjustment for me, but it's good."
Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.