To come on trial with a team is an evaluation. It’s an invitation a coaching staff extends a player without a guarantee of making the team. During the PDL season, its players are in and out of various MLS locker rooms and after the USL-Pro campaign wraps, many of its standouts look for greener pastures in MLS. In addition, many players that may have once been in MLS or some other league and are looking to get back on the radar, workout and vie for a spot on a club’s roster.
Trialists come and go, but three have managed to make it here in Philadelphia. Whether it’s for a fresh start, a prodigal return or a proving ground, Matt Kassel, Ryan Richter and Lucky Mkosana have been a constant in the locker room.
This week, philadelphiaunion.com will convey the backstories of all three:
Ryan Richter called it a dream come true when he signed with the Philadelphia Union for the 2011 season.
He’s trying to recreate that dream once again.
After getting his option declined by the Union prior to the start of the 2012 campaign, Richter won a championship with the Charleston Battery of the USL Professional Division this summer. Now he's back in Union camp as a trialist, hoping to rejoin the team that gave him his professional start.
“The one thing about going in as a trialist somewhere is it’s always tough to get acclimated the first couple of days,” Richter told MLSsoccer.com. “But for me, from the first day of practice, I felt comfortable. I don’t know what’s going to happen with this but I’m just happy to be back here. I love all the coaches and I love all the guys on the team.”
Richter’s first season in MLS was an interesting one. On one hand, the lifelong Philly resident was thrilled to be a part of his hometown team after a record-setting college career at nearby La Salle. On the other hand, it was frustrating that he didn’t get into any league matches and was being groomed as a right back, a position he never really played before.
“You’re happy to be on the team, you’re happy to be on the roster and you’re making money playing soccer,” Richter said. “But, at the same time, you think, ‘Where is my career really going if I’m just there practicing every day?’ You can be great in training but the way that you improve as a player is with games.”
Richter got that with the Charleston Battery. Playing up top as a right winger in the team’s 4-3-3 formation, he made 29 appearances and logged 1,792 minutes, scoring two goals and adding four assists to help the Battery win a USL-Pro title.
“I got a lot of experience as a pro that I wasn’t getting at the MLS level, and that’s something that I really needed for my career,” said Richter, who had never before left the Philly area for an extended period of time. “I have 30 games pro under my belt. I think that makes a huge difference.”
If it doesn’t work out for him in MLS, Richter will probably return to Charleston next year. But right now, he’s only thinking about impressing the Union coaches and getting back on his hometown squad for the 2013 season. One big opportunity will come Friday when the Union play D.C. United in reserve league action, a game Richter thinks he’ll play in.
No matter what happens, though, he enjoys his days of training with the Union and then going to La Salle soccer practice, where he serves as a volunteer coach.
He just hopes the Union gig will become a permanent one, once again.
“I work two jobs and I don’t get paid anything,” Richter said with a laugh. “Right now I’m just trying to find something that works.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com.