Local boy Brent Richards achieved his dream job at the age of 22 by making his debut as a Portland Timbers Major League Soccer player.
Richards, the team’s first and only homegrown player, has played in three MLS league games so far. Once as a halftime substitution against L.A. Galaxy, another as a substitution against F.C. Dallas in a home game and as a starter against Chivas U.S.A. He also started in an exhibition match against English team Aston Villa.
“I knew I would debut eventually,” said Richards. “But I’ve been wanting to get into a game for a while now. I’ve been doing well in practice for a while.”
In his debut game, he played against such soccer giants as David Beckham, one of England’s most popular soccer players, and Landon Donovan, a forward for the U.S. national team.
“It definitely was intimidating,” said Richards with a laugh. “I wasn’t sure if I was going in, but I made sure I was ready. I was definitely nervous, but I tried to relax and just work hard.”
He handles the pressure well. In Saturday’s game against Chivas U.S.A., he had four shots and one shot on goal.
After the dry spell for the Timbers, Saturday’s game was well played. Gavin Wilkinson, interim head coach and general manager, was quoted saying, “It can be a cruel, cruel sport sometimes.”
Total, Timbers fired 18 shots against Chivas U.S.A. Richards forsees more finishing practices for himself and the team as a whole.
Against L.A. Galaxy, Richards made excellent passes and crosses. There was one memorable tackle against Beckham in the second half, which knocked the Englishman down and gave the Timbers control. Beckham, dazed, left the field soon after.
“It was a fair tackle,” explained Richards. “He just landed wrong.”
Richards was born and raised in Camas. He has played soccer since he was a child and has gone to Timbers games since about the age of 13. His spot on the Timbers roster has been a long time coming.
He played for Eastside United F.C. as a kid, located in Gresham, Ore. While on the Camas High School soccer team, he won two state championships and was named Washington’s Gatorade Player of the Year during his senior year.
He played for the University of Washington soccer team and the Timbers U-23 team during college. He frequently was the top scorer during the Pac-10/Pac-12 Conference. By the end of his collegiate career, he had 31 goals and 15 assists in 72 games, leading the team in scoring, goals and game-winning goals in each of his four seasons.
In 2009, he joined the Timbers U-23 team and was the lead scorer during his 2010 and 2011 career. In 2010, the team was undefeated. In 2011, he was named the Timbers U-23 Player of the Year.
Currently he plays for the Timbers and the Timbers Reserve teams.
“I hadn’t thought about [playing for the Timbers] until right before college,” said Richards. “I wasn’t sure of my abilities before then or what I wanted to do.”
Richards spent a couple of months training with the Timbers teams after being on the Timbers U-23 team for a while and before he first got listed as a substitute for an MLS game.
“I was definitely struggling,” he said. “It was a tough camp. But I improved a lot during that time.”
Game time is the best way to excel, according to Richards.
“I got more comfortable with my teammates,” he said. “More game time experience is always a good thing.”
Richards studied economics at UW, but wants to add a Spanish minor through Portland State University. But his focus for now is with the Timbers.
“There is no other team I’d rather play for.”