Philadelphia Union II

The importance of Ryan Richter

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Bethlehem Steel FC are eleven games into their season and the USL affiliate of the Union has already proved a useful platform to give important game minutes to promising youngsters.

Fabian Herbers, the talented young striker from Germany, has been given several starts for the Steel to supplement his substitute appearances for the MLS side. Center back Ken Tribbett, a former Drexel University player, also started for the Steel to aid his quest to regain match fitness after an injury. Academy players like outside back Mark McKenzie and center back Auston Trusty have also appeared for the Steel and this introduction to the professional game at the tender age of 17 will do wonders for their careers.

Experience is vital in any professional’s career, as more and more knowledge helps players to better cope with the rigors of a full professional season. The game time youngsters receive in a Steel jersey is massive, but perhaps even more important is the time spent with veterans. Players who have been through the system and seen the demands of the game and what it can do to a player can pass on their knowledge to the youngsters.

This veteran pseudo teacher role is occupied by Ryan Richter, the captain and Mr. Consistency for the Steel. The Southampton, Pa. man was drafted by the Union in 2011 but not picked up again in 2012. Richter then bounced around several sides, including MLS club Toronto FC, before signing with Bethlehem.

The right back constantly communicates with his teammates. Communication is key in the large scale environment of MLS games, with tens of thousands of fans screaming. In order for a player to understand what is around him, his teammates need to communicate with him, and Richter has already begun to emphasize its importance, especially in his position in the back line.

Richter has also been impressive in his fitness. The former Union man bombs up and down the touchline, contributing offensively with overlaps and outlet options while also putting in hard challenges in the defensive third. The mental sharpness and peak physical condition necessary to cope with such demands serve as an example to his less experienced teammates.

The Steel captain also embodies the veteran role with his attitude. The right back works hard all game long while also being a positive commander on the field who rallies his troops when the going gets tough. Not only does Richter demand the most from his teammates, but he enjoys the game. His passion for the game is evident on his face with his smile, constant enthusiasm, and positive post-match interviews.

Though Richter has been a positive force through Bethlehem’s early season, he has not had the greatest luck in MLS. After Richter failed to convince the Union to pick up his option in 2012, he began his journeyman career with USL side Charleston Battery before ending up with Toronto FC and then NASL club Ottawa Fury. Richter’s resilient and persistent mindset is a lesson Richter can pass on to those on Bethlehem who feel undervalued by the club.

Equally important, the captain also brings consistency on game day. He is the only Steel player to have started and played every minute of the season. Richter also takes the set pieces, and his delivery is invaluable to a target man like young Liberian Seku Conneh. He has scored two goals on spot kicks this season, not a poor return for a defender.

While giving youngsters game time is hugely important in their growth and development as players, having hard-working veterans like Richter is at least as important in getting promising young talents up to speed with the professional game.


  1. These are the kind of guys you root for to make it as professionals. I remember Richter’s first go around… glad he is succeeding and getting minutes. Bethlehem Steel continues to pay dividends. Awesome

  2. Old Soccer Coach says:

    The mention of Richter’s physical fitness reminds me that back in 2010 there was a story about preseason I presume (since at this distance to say I remember is laughable).
    At the time there was a standardized conditioning test that was a series of exercises to be completed in given times with defined rest periods between the individual events. We had used it in the program of which I was a part at the time as an assessment earlier than 2010
    Nowak put the Union candidates through the same test and the story reported that Ryan Richter of LaSalle University came in first and was the only one who finished the whole program in the designated time. I always suspected that that was why Nowak kept him, as an example to reward hard work.
    Perhaps it was called the Beep test? Maybe? Anybody remember?

  3. Old Soccer Coach says:

    It will be interesting to see whether Matt Ralph (of either Brotherly Game or Bleacher Report; I do apologize Matt) is correct that Richter will dress for the Union at right back against Harrisburg next Wednesday.

  4. A good article on the detailed performance on Ryan Richter… very interesting… Thank you so much!!!

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