Spencer Richey MLS debut - goal kick
Bob Frid/Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Witty Richey makes MLS debut

VANCOUVER, BC – Early this year, before the signings of Fredy Montero and Yordy Reyna, Spencer Richey responded to a tweet from a fan upset with the lack of roster movement by saying:

What about the “sweet a** new goalkeeper?”

Richey, who has endeared himself to supporters with a few more zingers on Twitter over the last couple months, was referring to the fact that he joined the first team in December after a pair of seasons with Whitecaps FC 2 in the United Soccer League.

He was just having some fun, of course.

But his addition went largely unnoticed due to the fact that David Ousted is the undisputed number one here in Vancouver. With Ousted suspended, however, the 24-year-old ‘keeper made his Major League Soccer debut in Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Toronto FC at BC Place.

“It’s very bittersweet obviously,” Richey told reporters after the match. “I’m delighted to get my debut. And it felt like halfway through the second half we were pushing and the match was going our way, but the sending off changes things. I’m disappointed to not get one point at least. I’m happy, but disappointed as well.”

Richey wasn’t busy on the afternoon, but he did make a diving right-palm save on a curling Justin Morrow strike early in the second half.

Those who follow WFC2 know those types of saves have almost become routine for the American, whose cat-like reflexes made for quite the highlight-reel with the USL side. Unfortunately for the ‘Caps, there wasn’t much he could have done on either TFC goal.

“It was one of those funny games because I didn’t have a lot to do, except one save and then pull the ball out of my net twice,” Richey said. “Sometimes the games where you’re getting lots of strikes on net are actually the easiest ones.”

That certainly wasn’t the case on Saturday, but Richey said he still felt like he “belonged out there.”

Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson said he thought “long and hard” about the decision to start Richey over Paolo Tornaghi, who replaced Ousted in last weekend’s 3-2 loss vs. San Jose.

At the end of the day, it was about giving Richey an opportunity – an opportunity he earned not only based on his play with WFC2 but also in his two CONCACAF Champions League victories last season.

“He needs to be given a chance,” said Robinson, never one to shy away from playing youngsters. “And I just felt the timing was right to play him. I spoke to Paolo [Friday] and he respectfully took the decision. I’ve still got 100 per cent faith in both goalkeepers and they’ll alternate when David hopefully doesn’t miss too many games. Spencer came in and look composed, assured, and did a very good job.”

Richey said he also learned of Robinson’s decision on Friday.

Unfortunately, his mom and sister were out of town, but his dad, brother, girlfriend, and a couple friends made the short trip from Seattle – Richey’s hometown – to attend the match.

He must have been pretty nervous, right?

“Honestly, two nights ago I didn’t sleep at all,” he said after the match. “I slept okay last night. I was nervous for the decision, more so than the match itself.’

After all, this is an opportunity he’s been working towards for as long as he can remember.

Longer than initially planned, in fact.

In 2013, Richey entered his senior season with the University of Washington Huskies amid high expectations, being named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List and the College Soccer News preseason All-America team. But his campaign was cut short just four matches in when he suffered a season-ending broken leg after a hard collision with 2015 MLS Rookie of the Year and then-Connecticut Huskies striker Cyle Larin.

Not an injury you’d want at any point, but certainly not heading into your draft year.

For that reason, despite a combine invite, Richey opted not to enter the 2014 MLS SuperDraft. Instead, he returned to the University of Washington for a fifth year, re-earned his starting spot, and then entered the draft in 2015, when Whitecaps FC snagged him in the third round (61st overall). Interestingly, Whitecaps FC acquired the pick from New England Revolution in exchange for goalkeeper Brad Knighton. 

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound keeper has had to be patient, but it paid off on Saturday.

“It sometimes can be a grind for guys that are behind the number one, and obviously this is Dave’s spot and he’s a great keeper,” Richey said. “But what kind of pro would I be if I wasn’t chomping at his ankles, wanting his spot? So it’s a confidence builder. I’ll put it in my locker and use it to move forward. Whenever I get my next opportunity, I’ll use this to build off of.”

In the meantime, Richey will likely continue to see time with WFC2, who open their 2017 campaign next Saturday, March 25 at LA Galaxy II (2 p.m. PT – live stream on whitecapsfc.com).

And in the meantime, you’ll find him on Twitter.