New Mexico United's Kalen Ryden has become one of the club's best loved players, and will return for his fifth season in 2024 after signing a new contract. | Photo courtesy JJ Digos / Phoenix Rising FC
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – New Mexico United announced on Wednesday it had re-signed Kalen Ryden, bringing the experienced central defender back for his fifth season with the club in the 2024 USL Championship season.
The 32-year-old has become a key piece in New Mexico’s back line since joining the club for the 2020 campaign, as well as a fan-favorite off the pitch. This past season, he ranked third in the Championship with 153 clearances – an individual single-season high – and also logged 34 interceptions and a duel success rate of 59.3 percent.
“Kalen is a leader on and off the pitch and has been an invaluable member of the United family,” said New Mexico United Sporting Director Itamar Keinan. “His return ensures defensive strength and incredible balance, making the club better prepared to challenge for titles.”
Here are three things you should know about the Norman, Okla. native.
Ryden is preparing to enter his 10th season in the professional ranks, and during that time he’s made 201 appearances in the USL Championship’s regular season – one of 35 players to reach that landmark so far in league history. He also ranks 18th all-time in the league’s regular season with 16,903 minutes played. In addition to being one of the Championship’s most consistent presences, he’s also been a key leader – in four seasons with New Mexico United he’s been a co-captain each campaign, and he was one of the veterans that helped lead Real Monarchs SLC to the 2019 USL Championship Final.
Earning USL Championship All-League First Team honors in 2020 when New Mexico reach the postseason despite a full season on the road in the pandemic-shortened campaign, Ryden has put up major numbers over the past six seasons with Real Monarchs SLC and United. He ranks fourth in the Championship with 655 clearances, sits in the Top 10 with 229 interceptions, and is in the Top 20 with 828 recoveries over that span.
Ryden and Indy Eleven midfielder Jack Blake have been longtime friends, and on one occasion that came in very handy. Ahead of their 2019 USL Championship Western Conference Semifinal with Real Monarchs SLC against Phoenix Rising FC, Ryden forgot to pack his boots for the road trip, and had to borrow a spare pair of Blake’s to get through the game.
“He probably had one of the best games of the season in my boots,” Blake said when the two came together for a conversation about their friendship with Kelsi Steele three years ago.
“Yeah, but I never wore them after that, and I scored the next game, so…” said Ryden. “And they weren’t even the right size. Jack and I don’t wear the same shoe size, but it was the closest to what I wore and was like the same style of shoe, so I was like, ‘I gotta wear these.’ They didn’t fit me that great, but I had to play in them.”
The Monarchs came through with a 2-1 victory on their way to claiming the 2019 USL Championship title.