Toronto FC this morning confirmed one of the worst-kept secrets of the past week: Battery midfielder Ryan Richter is going back to The Show.
“Ryan is a versatile, fit and talented young player” said Toronto FC Head Coach Ryan Nelsen. “We’re hopeful that Toronto will be a place where he can flourish.”
The Battery had previous acknowledged that the two clubs were trying to work out a deal, but said little about it on the record before this afternoon.
“We try to encourage movement to Major League Soccer,” said club President Andrew Bell. “Ryan’s agent had said there was interest in him from D.C. United, and (Coach Mike Anhaeuser gave him permission to go and basically spend preseason with D.C. United. So he missed all of the Carolina Challenge Cup games, which is a slight inconvenience for us, but really, hopefully, it works out for the players in the long run, which it proved to.
“D.C. actually released him from their camp, and he came back here for like, two days, and … I’d actually mentioned Ryan, I think, to Toronto earlier in the preseason, and their
chief scout, Pat Onstad, was at D.C. United last year, so he knew about Ryan and so they asked us if they could bring Ryan up for another look, and they ended up wanting him.
“(The negotiations were) pretty straightforward. At a certain point they said ‘Let’s work a deal out,’ and then it didn’t take very long. I can’t really go into any details because that’s the way (MLS) likes to do business.”
In anticipation of this announcement, I struck up a correspondence with Toronto FC blogger David Rowaan of Waking the Red last week. His post on the signing is here.
Here are David’s thoroughly thoughtful insights into how Richter fits into Toronto’s plans:
When Ryan Richter joined Toronto FC on a trial basis in early March the club was right in the middle
of trying to build their roster. He arrived on the back of the club’s 1-0 defeat against the Vancouver
Whitecaps that saw a lot of attackers making their debuts for the club. With TFC signing Hogan
Ephraim, Jonathan Osorio, Darel Russell, Taylor Morgan, Robert Earnshaw, and Ashtone Bennett just
prior to the season opener and adding John Bostock later that week it seemed unlikely that they would
need to add more players to the roster.
In spite of all the additions the club continued to have a number of players on trial including Canadian
internationals Jamie Peters and Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgault and American journeymen Jacob Hustedt
and Lance Rozeboom. Richter joined that group in training but following the club’s 2-1 defeat to the
Montreal Impact he was the only one left as the other trialists failed to earn contracts.
With the club having added a number of wide players in recent weeks it raises the question of just where head coach Ryan Nelsen sees Richter fitting into his roster. There is a chance that one or more players could follow Matt Stinson in being waived in the coming days but even if that does not happen there should be chances for Richter to get playing time in 2013.
It is clear the club sees Richter as a versatile player who is capable of filling a number of different t roles for the team and with little flexibility in the cap TFC needs to add players like him who come with a reasonable price tag and can provide coverage around the field.
In training he has been used on both the left and right sides of the formation working as a winger and occasionally even being used as a wingback. The club remains dangerously thin when it comes to outside backs as the only natural options are Richard Eckersley and Ashtone Morgan. They can make do with Russell, Logan Emory, Jeremy Hall, or Doneil Henry as coverage but all of them would be out of their natural positions and are not ideal solutions to the depth problem. With Morgan struggling to start the season there could be minutes available in the defence as the season progresses and injuries or fatigue start to put depth to the test.
Minutes on the wing might be a bit tougher for Richter to come by should the club look to use him in more of his natural positions. The team has Reggie Lambe, Emery Welshman, John Bostock, Hogan Ephraim, and Ashton Bennett who can all fill that wide role with most of them being capable of playing on both sides. Welsham and Bennett are both rookies and forwards by trade though so after the first three there should be space for Richter to again provide depth.
Richter is not likely to be a starter in any position for Toronto but if he continues to show that he has the versatility and skill to provide a consistent performance in a number of different positions there is no doubt that he will find playing time in 2013.
Toronto’s roster will likely be under-construction for much of the year so if he proves to be a good addition it may even lead the club to shed an international like Reggie Lambe in favour of a domestic option in Richter.
The club is still at a stage in its rebuilding process where it needs to add both quality and depth so if Richter can provide both of those things at a reasonable price he should be a very good signing for the club even if he is not likely to end up being a star in MLS.
Richter began his professional career in MLS after being drafted by the Philadelphia Union in the 2011 supplemental draft. He went on loan to Harrisburg later that season, and signed with Charleston in early 2012. Richter made 29 appearances for the Battery in 2012, scored two goals with four assists, and started all three of the clubs playoff games. In his only appearance of the preseason, Richter notched two assists in the Battery’s 3-0 win over the College of Charleston on Feb. 28. He spent most of the match at right back, and for a few days it looked like he might wind up being one of the team’s 2013 stars.
As much as that might have boosted the Battery’s 2013 chances, the club never considered discouraging his departure. “We’ve always said this: We’ve never prevented a player from leaving,” Bell said. “We want our players to know that if they’re good enough to play in Major League Soccer, they can.
“Remember, Ryan spent a year with the Philadelphia Union, and then they released him. And then he spent preseason with DC, and they released him, and then he came to us. So he’s been in the MLS system. It’s just, for whatever reason, whether it’s position or whether it’s the coach at the time, it just doesn’t always work out. But obviously he’s a good player and I think we’ve got several players of his caliber, or better, even, you know. Hopefully the process continues.”
What kind of player was Richter for Charleston?
“Really, that’s Mike’s department (editor’s note: We emailed Anhaeuser seeking comment), but obviously I thought he was a very good player,” Bell said. “He was playing in a position where he had some very fierce competition last year in Navion Boyd, who is a Jamaican international, but I think if you look at Ryan’s stats, at the end of the season he played in all three playoff games. Started them all. That probably speaks for itself.
“I think they’re looking at him primarily as a defender, so we’ll see how that works out. He’s a very strong and committed player.”
Toronto FC is an interesting MLS club in 2013. They’ve always had support, they’ve got excellent facilities, and the team has been willing to spend money, yet the franchise has yet to qualify for the playoffs and was just terrible in 2012. The odd management of the Ryan Nelson hire (he was still under contract to Queens Park Rangers as a player, and with QPR fighting to stay in the EPL, it wasn’t clear whether the club would release him) raised more questions. But Nelson appears to be thinking longer term with this edition of TFC, building from the ground up instead of from the Designated Player list down.
Your thoughts on Ryan Richter’s future and his stay in Charleston are welcome.