Gyaki's on fire

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 6:52 AM ET

There are likely no prouder parents in Calgary right now than Ernst and Elizabeth Gyaki.

After all, they watched their son, Ryan, almost singlehandedly get Canada's Under-20 soccer team into this summer's World Youth Championship.

Ryan, 19, tallied all four goals in Canada's 2-1 win over Mexico Friday, 1-0 triumph over Honduras Saturday and 1-0 win over Jamaica yesterday in contests played in Honduras for the CONCACAF qualifier.

The victories punched Canada's ticket and Gyaki's parents couldn't be more pleased, said Ernst.

"We are proud. He's put in a lot of effort and a lot of sacrifice and it's what he wants," said Ernst, who along with his wife watched the Mexico and Honduras matches on TV.

They talked to their son, a midfielder, yesterday before the Jamaica game and Ernst said his son was amazed at his and Canada's success.

"It was incredible. I couldn't believe it and he couldn't believe how it worked out," said Ernst, who was born in Austria, where he played Div. 2 soccer.

But, so far this season, it hasn't been all roses.

Ryan tore abdominal muscles in the first game of the campaign with the Sheffield United reserves in England. After at least two months out, he hurt his knee within two weeks of coming back. More niggling injuries followed, said Ryan.

"This was a big season for me and so far I've hardly got to play any games because of injuries," said Ryan, who was born in Toronto and moved to Calgary when he was five. "I can't really say too much about it. It's just been unlucky. I haven't had a go at things."

Nearing full health, Ryan was given his chance to shine wearing a Canadian shirt. Under-20 coach Dale Mitchell made the young Blade co-captain of his team and Gyaki more than returned the favour.

Ryan, speaking from the Canadian team hotel in San Pedro Sula, attributes the turnaround to hard work rather than good fortune. But he admits to having wondered when his unfortunate run was going to end.

"I was really thinking that things have got to change sooner or later because it hasn't been the best of seasons. So hopefully things will keep going as they are now," said Ryan, who played minor soccer in Silver Springs and then moved on to club soccer with the Calgary Blizzard.

As for his scoring exploits in Honduras, the young midfielder deflects praise to his teammates, typical of the kind of person he is, said Mitchell

"He's a hard-working kid, he's a good leader," said Mitchell. "That's why he's one of the captains within the team. He's a real team player and I think that's why everybody was so pleased for him that he got to be the hero on two occasions down here."

Ryan still has some physical issues, the legacy of the abdominal injury, which nag him, he explained

"It caused quite a big problem, and I think I'm still suffering from it,' said Ryan. "I'm still having quite a bad pain in my leg but our physio's brilliant and he (Canadian team trainer Eddie Cannon) sorts it out before every game. It hurts quite bad after the game."

He suffered the abdominal problem when he "fell funny" taking a shot and getting tackled at the same time.

The good news is he's regaining his health -- and he has another year on his contract to impress Sheffield.

A Sheffield United scout noticed him in Cuba while with a Canadian age-group team and he was invited to England some 2 1/2 years ago. He signed a week later.

He loves living in England -- "a totally different experience" -- but tries to get back to Canada twice a year.

"You get more vacations than most jobs get, so I can't complain."

Seems he rarely does.


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