Danny Royer is heading into his fifth full season with the New York Red Bulls. Since his arrival in August 2016, Royer has scored 50 goals across all competitions. But before arriving to MLS, he played in Austria, Germany and Denmark, places where he had the opportunity to play in tournaments like the Europa League and Champions League.
When he moved to Hannover 96, Royer was only 21 years-old. As the midfielder looks back to those days in the Bundesliga, he highlights the tempo and level of play as things that stood out.
“The move to Germany was a big move. I was very young at that time. I only had one professional year in Austria, and then I got the chance to make the move to Germany,” said Royer. “And that was definitely a tough time for me, but a time where I could learn a lot, probably the time where I learned the most because in Hannover 96 it was high quality, the team did very well in the league and even in Europa League.
“It was really hard for me to get into the line-up and to really get appearances. The quality was high, and it was still a good move for me to see the higher level and to really improve and to learn. But at this time, maybe it was a little too early. But just like everybody knows the German Bundesliga has high intensity. The tempo, and the quality of play are very high.”
Between 2011 and 2013, he spent a loan spell with 1. FC Köln in the 2012-13 season, where he went on to play 1,352 minutes and score three goals. However his time in Germany came to an end and Royer returned to Austria to play for Austria Vienna in the 2013-14 season.
There with Austria Vienna, he fulfilled his dream to play in the Champions League. Austria Vienna were drawn in a group that included FC Porto, Zenit St. Petersburg and eventual finalist Atlético Madrid.
“That was probably the best experience that I had in my career so far because I think everybody dreams about playing in the Champions League one day, and that was a great success and a great achievement for the entire club, and for every single player,” said Royer. “Personally, it was just amazing to hear the Champions League anthem on the field, and to play against these top teams, that was the year when Atlético Madrid made it to the final and almost beat Real Madrid.
“These are the experiences that we’re living for, those are the goals that everybody is reaching for, and just an amazing experience, really high quality from our opponents. This is definitely one of the best things that have happened to me,” he noted.
After those two group stage games against Diego “Cholo” Simeone’s Atleti, there was a consensus among Austria Vienna’s players that Atleti would go far in the tournament. Royer went on to say that they at least would end up reaching the semifinals. His guess was almost right.
“They were incredible, I mean, they’re still one of the best teams in the world, especially in that year when we played them in the group stage,” said Royer. “They were unbelievable, and you don’t always get to play against the best teams in the world. But I remember after those games, my teammates and I were saying, ‘This is a team that gets really far in the tournament.’ And I said after those games, ‘I think they make it at least to semifinals.’”
“They made it to the final and almost beat Real Madrid, that was when [Sergio] Ramos scored the late tying-goal, and then they obviously lost but they were incredible. It was a really good experience to see how good the quality can be. And obviously, that’s a team [Atlético Madrid] that’s very well-organized with a coach like Diego Simeone.”
Royer’s time with Austria Vienna concluded in July 2015 and his football journey took him to FC Midtjylland. The season before Royer joined them, the Danish club won the league after scoring 25 set piece goals, while no one else in the league broke 11. Journalist Ryan O’Hanlon dives deeper into FC Midtjylland’s way of utilizing set pieces in his article, “What Will Soccer Look in the Future?”
Matthew Benham has the majority shareholding at FC Midtjylland and is the owner of Brentford F.C. When looking back at his time with FC Midtjylland, Royer agreed that set pieces were a major component during the team’s training sessions.
“I would say that the owner, Mr. Benham loves set pieces, and I think all the teams like Brentford and especially FC Midtjylland took that chance. They’re training a lot of set pieces, even that season when I was there, we scored so many set piece goals” described Royer. “It’s definitely a main part of practice, and like I said, we scored many goals on set pieces, and not only on penalties, free kicks and corner kicks. We also scored plenty of goals from throw ins, and they always had new ideas.
“Obviously, the three points that are most important in set pieces are first of all, the quality of the delivery, the timing of the runs, and the third one is to be innovative, and creative to find new ways to trick the opponent or just to find new plays,” he noted. “And they were incredible at that, we also had one coach that was just doing set pieces, always coming up with new stuff, and that worked out really well. And I think over the past few years, they’ve always scored plenty of set piece goals.”
With FC Midtjylland, Royer played in the Europa League and enjoyed his time getting to know Denmark. But after a great first half of the season with the club, the second half didn’t go as planned, and Royer received an offer from RBNY. Royer describes it as the best decision he has made in his career.
“I got the offer from the New York Red Bulls and took some time for me to think about, but that was probably the best decision I ever took,” said Royer. “I think our team spirit and our locker room has always been great here. I love the guys here. We always stick together, we hang out off the pitch as well, and these are all different kinds of experiences.
“Soccer is different in every country. The achievements were different in the countries that I played. It’s been good,” he said.