Soccer-playing son of ex-Brave leans on dad

When Tyler Ruthven of the Atlanta Silverbacks grows frustrated with how his team’s season is going — and there’s a lot to be frustrated about — he knows just who to talk to.

His father, Dick Ruthven, was an All-Star pitcher for the Braves for almost 2 1/2 seasons in the 1970s, during which they were 155-227.

The Silverbacks are 1-11-2 in their comeback season, with their next game at Fort Lauderdale on Saturday. They are playing well, but are losing in almost every way possible. The defeats, not the way the team is playing, have gotten to Tyler Ruthven.

An intense central defender, Ruthven has started every game and played almost every minute this season, so he has felt those losses deeply. He tries to leave soccer on the field, but it’s becoming more difficult. When he brings his work home, he seeks out his dad, a 14-year MLB veteran, or brother Sean, who played baseball at Georgia and later signed with the Rockies.

“We talk about it all the time, when things are bad, that’s when you are going to learn and gain the most out of it,” said Ruthven, who grew up in Alpharetta and played at Milton High. “He’s said ‘Do your mental homework to keep yourself engaged and pushing no matter how high or low. You have to keep going, that’s your only choice if you want to survive in this business.’”

Ruthven can count on one hand the number of times that he has felt satisfied on a soccer field during the past few years. One such time was the 2-1 victory against Montreal earlier this season that broke a nine-game winless streak.

“As soon as it ended you saw people stop and scream,” Ruthven said. “It was three to four months of raw frustration. We turned a corner a little bit. We feel like we made some progress, but took a couple steps backward again.”

Before that, the last time came when he played club soccer for the Concorde Fire in Atlanta. That spans his collegiate career that started at San Francisco with a quality team and finished with three subpar seasons at South Carolina, as well as one professional season at Harrisburg City in the United Soccer Leagues.

It’s understandable why he talks to his dad, who now owns a property-management company in Roswell, and brother, who works for the company. Two moments in six years is tough.

“A professional athlete is going to be hard to satisfy, and that’s why he’s there,” Dick Ruthven said. “If you’re satisfied, it’s not so much a healthy thing.”

Because they are in their first year in the NASL, the Silverbacks are younger and lack the chemistry and cohesion that the league’s seven other teams possess. Though he never played soccer and confesses not to understand all of its nuances, Ruthven recognized that building a team can be difficult. He told his son that this season had the potential to be a challenge. He’s not sure Tyler understood what it would take, but he has seen his focus improve as the season has continued. Tyler’s coach, Jose Manuel Abundis, has seen it, too.

“That is a reason why he’s here,” Abundis said through an interpreter. “He’s got the blood to be a soccer player. It’s not easy to be a professional player, but he has that temperament, a player who trains as a winner. He tries to push the others to have that strong mentality to push a little bit more.”

As the losses have mounted, Tyler Ruthven said some of the younger players are growing tense in games, which leads to mistakes. In Monday’s 4-3 loss to Puerto Rico, the Silverbacks gave up a goal in the 90th minute to lose 4-3. It is a frustrating cycle that he wants badly to break as much for the team as for himself.

Not only does he want to pay back the fans who continue to support the team, he wants to play well enough to earn a shot in Major League Soccer.

“I’ll keep working at it until someone proves I shouldn’t be there,” he said.