Ryan Arambula is chasing his dreams.
And despite obstacles, the former Myrtle Beach High standout hasn’t wavered on his plans to one day become a professional soccer player.
Plagued by a slew of injuries and setbacks as a member of the South Carolina Gamecocks men’s soccer team, Arambula is getting in extra work as a member of the Myrtle Beach Mutiny before heading into a pivotal senior season.
“That’s all I want to do; I just want to play professionally. It’s been my dream since I’ve been a little kid. … I’ve had two foot surgeries and all last season, all last year I was trying to recover,” said Arambula, who started just five games and had two goals and one assist his junior year at South Carolina. “I was playing well before my injuries so that was obviously tough, but I’ve been feeling better and improving.
“... Obviously no one wants to be injured; everyone wants to be playing out on the field. So trying to just get over that has been pretty difficult, but I’ve been able to get over it with the help of the support from my family and friends. Just wanting to come back and play again is the biggest thing.”
Arambula started the first 11 games of his sophomore season at South Carolina before being sidelined due to a foot injury. He wound up starting one more game that season and finished with just four assists while putting 11 of his 29 shots on goal.
It’s been a rather tenuous college career, but Arambula maintains a positive outlook and is confident he’ll regain his form during his senior year.
“It’s been a great three years so far. I think it’s going to be our best year yet,” he said. “We have a lot of the same guys coming in that are in my class and the one right under us. I think everyone has a good mindset on our team and I’m looking forward to my senior year.”
But first, he’s working on getting back on track with the Mutiny, a member of the National Premier Soccer League. The Mutiny play their home games at Ashley Booth Field, located in the same sports complex as Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium, where Arambula played in high school en route to being named a Class AAA all-state selection with the Seahawks.
Arambula has helped the Mutiny to a playoff spot and its best record in team history at 10-1-1.
“Hopefully I can do as well as I can here with [the Mutiny] and South Carolina and have a good chance,” Arambula said. “I thought the Mutiny would be great for me to get in some good training against some good competition. It’s really helped me to get back to form.”
Many of his teammates and coaches describe Arambula as one of the hardest workers they’ve seen.
“Ryan has been a catalyst for us this season,” Mutiny coach Tom Morris said. “He’s been the heartbeat of our team in the field, he’s worked a lot, has great energy and gets the ball moving for us; he’s absolutely superb. In training he’s one of the most coachable players I’ve worked with. He wants to listen and learn all the time.”
Among Arambula’s teammates with the Mutiny are former Waccamaw standout Noah Gulley and former Socastee standout Connor Norton-Baker. Gulley and Arambula played club soccer with each other growing up before playing against each other in high school.
“I would say Ryan is one of the hardest-working kids I’ve ever met,” said Gulley, who plays collegiately at Coker College. “He’s all over the field, he’s super reliable and I would say one of his best qualities is the fact he never stops until the end. Even playing against him growing up that’s how he always was. It was always fun, mainly because he’s a good player and because we knew each other so it was always really competitive.”
Norton-Baker also played against Arambula in high school and said that work ethic separates him from the rest of the pack.
“He’s a great teammate,” said Norton-Baker, who also plays at Coker. “He always gives 100 percent and is always the hardest worker. It was great; he was a year older than me so I could learn from him because he’s always been one of the best players. Not only that, he’s just a great guy.”
Arambula said he always appreciates a good challenge, and Gulley and Norton-Baker constantly push him to play his best.
“They’re really good players and great teammates,” Arambula said. “It’s been fun being able to play with them after competing in high school.”
Coming back home to play has been a pleasure, Arambula said.
“It feels great playing right here next to my old high school field,” Arambula said. “This is a great group of guys here and it feels good because I’m near some family and friends so it’s been fun and a great experience.”
Arambula’s brother, Coby, is following in his footsteps and playing soccer for the Seahawks. Arambula has high praise for his brother and believes he has a bright future.
“Coby is a beast; that’s the best way to put it,” Arambula said. “He’s a workhorse, he wins tackles, he’s not afraid of anyone and has great skill on the ball. I think he’s going to be a great player growing up, better than anyone I’ve seen here.”
The Mutiny host the Carolina Railhawks U23s on Saturday at 7 p.m. in their final regular-season game before the NPSL playoffs begin July 17.
“It’s been a really good year,” Arambula said. “The team is doing well and everyone wants to win. Everyone has a lot of good character and it’s been a lot of fun; we’re going to make a good run in the playoffs.”
Morris is confident that Arambula will be successful after his days with the Mutiny are done.
“I’m really happy for him because he’s had a lot of injury problems in the past,” Morris said. “He’s been able to find his form again and he’s been playing superb and going into his senior year with the Gamecocks hopefully it will kind of carry on. He’s a great kid and I couldn’t be happier for him; hopefully he’ll carry us in the playoffs moving forward.”
Contact MAX McKINNON at 626-0302 or on Twitter @mmckinnonTSN.
▪ Who | Carolina Railhawks U23s at Myrtle Beach Mutiny
▪ What | Regular-season home finale
▪ When | 7 p.m. Saturday
▪ Where | Ashley Booth Field