Two words that in its most basic essence are just a question.
Too many times in sports, it evokes disappointment over what could’ve been, over what was narrowly missed.
For Spencer Richey, what if is a reminder of what he’s gone through to get to what is.
What Richey is now is a returning goalkeeper for Whitecaps FC 2, who has overcome potentially course-changing twists of fate to position himself as a rising player in the club's goalkeeper union.
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. He got off to a flying start, earning a shutout at Gonzaga to open the year, 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.
All of a sudden, the Seattle native was reduced to being a spectator.
“It was discouraging and disappointing,” Richey said. “It was just one of those freak injuries that happen in your career. You hope and pray that you don’t have one but that’s the reality of the game.”
Instead of dwelling on what could’ve been, Richey opted not to enter the 2014 MLS SuperDraft and went back to work, retaking the full-time starting job in the following year as a redshirt senior, and finishing the year with 69 saves, four shutouts and a 1.23 goals-against average. In the NCAA Tournament, he would record a double-overtime shutout against Furman and helped his own cause by scoring in the nine-round shootout to help the Huskies advance.
“The injury was a setback, a speed bump,” Richey now says, looking back. “In the long run, I believe that the cream rises to the top.”
The ‘Caps took notice, snagging Richey in the third round of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft last January. The Pac-12 All-Academic honorable mention goalkeeper could have gone to a different club - what if his hometown Seattle Sounders FC picked him earlier in the round? As fate would have it, Richey would get his passport and move up north on the I-5 to Vancouver, where he now is under the tutelage of a wealthy array of soccer minds.
“In the draft, you really have no choice where you’re going to go and what situation you’ll end up in, so I feel incredibly lucky to have landed with Whitecaps FC, with [WFC2 coaches] Alan Koch, Steve Meadley, and Raegyn Hall,” Richey said. “Even down to the medical and equipment staff. It’s pretty rare when you go to organizations and from top to bottom, it’s all quality people. From everything I’ve experienced, it’s a top class organization so I’ve enjoyed it.”
In his first season in professional soccer, Richey made a team-high 12 starts in net for Whitecaps FC 2, finishing with a 1.83 goals-against average, while recording two of the team’s three shutouts for the season. In training, he’s been soaking up tricks to the trade as he’s spent considerable time alongside 2015 MLS All-Star ‘keeper David Ousted.
“Training with David and Paolo [Tornaghi] who are experienced and have been around the game much longer, you can learn something from everyone. From Paolo, from David, from [Marco] Carducci, all three of them play the game so much differently,” Richey said. “Every goalkeeper is different. The more of those quality players you can be around, I can take pages from each one of their books and add them to mine and hopefully make me better in the long run.”
With another offseason for development with the club’s goalkeeper union, Richey looks forward to having a standout season with Whitecaps FC 2, and perhaps getting chances with the first team. His focus is not on the what if, but on what he could be.
“Going into year two, I have a ‘no excuses’ mentality for myself,” Richey said. “I need to be playing at the highest level, and hopefully if I have the same opportunity going into preseason with the first team, which I think I will, be able to blend right in and excel in that environment.”
2016 WFC2 Season Tickets are on sale now. 'Caps Club Season Ticket Members can add WFC2 to their MLS season ticket package for only $7 per month! For more information on WFC2 tickets, call 604-484-7862 or e-mail email@example.com.