Former Solon coach Ryan Conner named head coach of Aurora boys soccer team

FRANK ACETO
Reporter

Since the Suburban League expanded to a 15-team, two-conference format in 2015, the smaller-school American Conference has featured two of the best teams in the state on a regular basis.

Ryan Conner knows the feeling. His previous gig went through a similar gauntlet against a dynamic duo that may have been even more formidable.

By the way, they’re often known by their nicknames.

Ed’s and Iggy.

“We used to play [Lakewood] St. Edward and [Cleveland] St. Ignatius every year,” Conner said.

Conner relished facing tough competition as the head boys soccer coach at Solon High School, which reached the regional competition three times during his 10-year tenure.

Therefore, Conner won’t blink as he prepares for perennial American Conference juggernauts Copley and Revere. For those who love the “beautiful game” on West Pioneer Trail, such a thought is a breath of fresh air.

Conner was named the head boys soccer coach at Aurora High School last month. The 49-year-old Conner, who lives in Aurora, returns to the pitch after a five-year hiatus. He last coached at Solon in 2015, when the Comets’ saw their season end in a Division I regional title contest against — you guessed it — St. Ignatius.

That’s OK with Conner, though. The veteran coach could be considered the modern-day version of St. Daniel the Prophet.

Like the famous biblical figure, Conner is perfectly comfortable in the lion’s den.

“I love playing a tough schedule,” Conner said. “At Solon, we always played one of the toughest schedules in the state to get us ready for the playoffs.

“Those are the teams that show where you’re at. They show you what you need to work on. I’m looking forward to playing some good teams.”

Other than its regional run in 2015, Solon reached a regional semifinal contest in 2013 and the elite eight during his first year with the team in 2006.

Prior to joining the Comets, Conner, who is a physical education teacher at Parkside Elementary School in Solon, spent one year as an assistant coach for the Norwalk boys soccer team. He also spent nine years at Firelands High School in Oberlin for eight years, including the last eight years as the Falcons head coach (1996-2003).

Conner, who spent the last four years as a coach of the Hudson-based Everest Soccer Club, has a career record of 186-109-50 during his 19 years as a head coach.

“We are glad Ryan Conner has joined our team,” Aurora athletic director Paul Powers said. “We look forward to what he can do for the Greenmen. His reputation for building quality programs is an asset to our department.”

Like his old team, Conner’s new team is no stranger to success.

The Greenmen finished 13-5-1 and reached a Division II district final. Aurora advanced to the

Division I state semifinals in 2012 and the Division II state semifinals in 2017.

“I’m very excited with the potential we have,” Conner said. “Since I live here, I know the schools well. The fact that the program has had some success is definitely a plus.”

When you play for Conner, there are two simple words to describe his coaching style: defense and fitness.

“I want to be the most fit team on the field,” Conner said. “If you stay fit and play great defense, you give yourself a chance in every game. From there, we will build an aggressive, attacking style. We want to possess the ball with a purpose and get the ball down the field. I’m very big on the counterattack.”

Conner certainly hopes the Greenmen can compete in every game and in the process, take down the American Conference’s version of Ed’s and Iggy.

He also wants his players to achieve something else. And it has nothing to do with converting a corner kick or executing a give-and-go.

“I want to try to develop a team-first attitude,” Conner said. “I want a great work ethic to be part of our culture. The big focus is team unity.

“I want to give them the best sports’ experience of their lives. When they’re done playing soccer, no matter what success we have, I want them to reach their ultimate potential not just as players, but as people.”

Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, faceto@recordpub.com or @Faceto_Gannett.