August 24th, 2010 | Published in Sports
|Brent Richards scored 14 goals in 12 appearances with Portland’s Under 23 squad. He also took league MVP and Rookie of the Year honors. Photo: Max Waugh|
Fresh off a dominating season with the Timbers’ Under-23 squad, Camas native Brent Richards is preparing for his junior season in the University of Washington’s preseason camp, and he’s not thinking about much beyond the PAC-10: He’s not ready for the pros.
“My education is really important to me, and it’s really too early to say,” Richards said from Seattle on Sunday when asked whether he would forgo his last year of eligibility and try for the MLS.
Richards impressed the Timbers organization by proving a dangerous striker with Portland’s U-23s this summer, scoring 14 goals in 12 appearances in the amateur Premier Development League. He took league MVP and Rookie of the Year honors, and the Timbers claimed a perfect 16-0 regular season record (followed by four straight in the playoffs) and the league championship thanks to two goals from Richards in the final game. The 5-foot-10 Richards beat the Thunder Bay Chill defense and goalkeeper twice in the air to score on headers from set pieces.
“He’s showed that he’s the cream of the crop at this level,” said Timbers U-23 Coach Jim Rilatt. “Now the question is what can he do at the next level.”
“My hopes for Brent is that he has a fabulous year at UW,” Rilatt continued “And when the season is over, then sit down with his coach, Dean Wurzberger, and see what’s next.”
Richards did get a taste of pro life this summer, working out with the Timbers’ top team occasionally and seeing first hand some of the expectations of a working pro.
“The pace was obviously faster,” he said. “Even with the Under-23s, they expected a lot of us in terms of our overall attitude – showing up to trainings on time, things like that.”
“I love Portland and had a great time playing with that organization this summer,” he added. “If I were to leave early, it would hopefully be to play with them.”
There are, of course, no guarantees. The usual route for amateurs into the MLS is through the SuperDraft, where you roll the dice on where you end up. Teams can sign a limited number of local players in their youth programs to protect them from the draft, but those players are typically 18 and under. Richards is already 20.
A more attractive route for college players mulling a jump to the pros is to become one of a handful of Generation adidas players the league signs every year. These top prospects are guaranteed at least $100,000 a year for two to four years and get an education stipend to finish their college degrees. National team standouts Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, and the Timbers’ own Alex Nimo, who prepped in Portland and is on loan from Real Salt Lake, all went through this program. Generation adidas players are still exposed in the draft, even if a certain team recommends them for the program
Richards said he hadn’t looked too deeply into the details of Generation adidas. Right now he’s focusing on economics in the classroom, where he’ll probably declare a major in the department at the end of the fall quarter. Rilatt allowed that’s a wise decision, no matter how Richards’ summer season in Portland had raised his profile.
“He’s a homegrown boy and [Head Coach] Gavin Wilkinson is aware of him,” Rilatt said. “But that degree can be parlayed into a pretty good job.”