Like many other fans, Ryan Richter owns a pair of Philadelphia Union autographed jerseys – those of Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Mwanga.
Who wouldn’t want these two coveted items of memorabilia?
For the foreseeable future, Richter may need to tuck the jerseys away in a closet because Le Toux and Mwanga will likely be his teammates.
“I’m such a big Union fan and I went to a bunch of games last season,” said Richter, the club’s No. 5 overall pick in the MLS Supplemental Draft from nearby La Salle University. “Sebastien and Danny, they’re amazing to watch. I’m big, big fans of both of them and I got their jerseys autographed. They were so dynamic on the field and so gracious off the field. They’re players you want to emulate.”
A Southampton, Pa. native, Richter was recently named Offensive Player of the Year and Student-Athlete of the Year by the Atlantic 10 Conference after scoring a league-best 14 goals in 2010.
In his final two seasons at La Salle, Richter racked up 51 points on a total of 21 goals and nine assists. In total, Richter registered 28 goals (fifth all-time at La Salle) and 13 assists (10th all-time) for 69 points (fifth all-time). Richter was also named to the CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District first-team.
Having the opportunity to stay home and compete for the Union is almost surreal. In fact, it still hasn’t completely sunk in yet.
“It’s so perfect to be with the Union,” Richter said. “It’s almost so great that I have to stop and pinch myself. To stay home and play in front of my family and friends is every kid’s dream. I’m living a dream. I know now that I have work to do. I’m thrilled to be in this situation.
“Now comes the time to prove my ability on the field. I’ve been working very, very hard to prepare for this preseason training. I’m very excited for the opportunity. I don’t think I could have scripted anything better than this scenario for me.”
Richter's hard work has paid off thus far in preseason. The 21-year-old lasted longer than any other player during the "beep test" last week, a grueling fitness test designed to evaluate stamina.
Conditioning is only one factor, but it confirms Richter's commitment to latching on with Philadelphia. He's already proven at the college level that he knows how to put the ball in the back of the net.
“He just started scoring goals like crazy and did so all year long,” Union coach John Hackworth said after Richter was selected. “He has great size, athleticism, and he definitely has more soccer in him than people probably give him credit for.”
Richter still has to prove himself to the technical staff over a longer period of time, but he sure has ample motivation. Having the chance to play at PPL Park would be a dream come true.
“At La Salle, you may have a few hundred people, but we knew that as players,” Richter said. “I went to a lot of Union games last season and the atmosphere was just amazing. The fans were so into the game and as a player it’s awesome to see that kind of support. I want to impress the fans and I’m determined to do everything I can to improve every single day.”
Beyond his work ethic, there's a reason the Union picked up Richter early in the Supplemental Draft.
“Ryan scored a lot of goals, and I liked how he played without the ball and showed good soccer instincts,” Union Manager Peter Nowak said. “He will have to make an adjustment to the MLS level, but he is very skilled. I believe we drafted a very sound player who’s coming in here to be a major contributor.”
And who knows? Maybe Le Toux and Mwanga will be asking Richter for their own autographed jerseys down the road.
“I don’t know, we’ll see, but that would be cool,” Richter said, laughing. “I will wear the Union jersey proudly and I will give it my all every minute I’m on the practice field, in the weight room or on the field during a game.”
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