It’s never too early to think about the future and when you’re the Whitecaps, who possess one of the best run academy systems in MLS, there are plenty of young’uns coming down the pike to get excited about. Here at 86 Forever, we decided to start taking a look at some of the top young talent plying their trade for Vancouver Whitecaps 2 in USL, as well as in the Whitecaps Residency. Some of these guys won’t be taking the pitch at BC Place for many years but these profiles will hopefully give you an idea of what they have to offer when they do.
Welcome back to part two of our series looking at the brightest young Whitecaps talent. If you missed the inaugural installment, you can find our profile of Kadin Chung here. Today we turn our attention to a potential future number 1 for the club: Spencer Richey.
Richey is not a youngster in the same sense as some of the Whitecaps’ other top young talent. To start with, he is 25, which is a bit older than most hot prospects. Yet goalkeepers often peak later and can maintain their fitness until an older age. One only has to look to Iker Casillas, Gianluigi Buffon or other top European keepers who are well on the wrong side of 30. Even David Ousted is 32 and has shown no sign of slowing down.
But when the Great Dane does lose a step or two (or decides to leave Vancouver for European pastures), Richey will be ready to step in. Selected with the 61st pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, the Seattle, Washington native was forged in the fires of two prestigious soccer academies: IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida and Crossfire Premier in Washington state.
From there, he migrated to the University of Washington, where he was a regular starter for the Huskies. He earned was twice named to the All-Pac 12 team, earning first team honors in 2012 and was named to the second team in 2011. He also showed a good deal of grit and resilience--after breaking his leg in September of 2013, Richey bounced back to post four shutouts and a goals-against-average rate of 1.23.
After being drafted by the Caps, Richey has spent most of his time playing for Vancouver Whitecaps 2. In three seasons with the Thundercaps, he has made 37 appearances and has been the first-choice keeper for most of that stretch. With 56 goals against and six shutouts, Richey has been able to perform well behind an uneven defense and has kept his composure in the goal-happy USL.
These performances have earned him more looks with the first team, most notably filling in for a suspended David Ousted against Toronto FC earlier this season. While the Caps lost that match 2-0, it is difficult to fault Richey for either goal and while some aspects of his game were a bit nervy at times (i.e. his distribution) it was still regarded as a promising performance from the youngster and one that may well push longtime backup Paolo Tornaghi down the depth chart.
Richey also started both legs of the Whitecaps’ losing Canadian Cup tie against Montreal Impact and featured in two of the three group stage matches in last year’s CONCACAF Champions League, posting a shutout of Central FC.
Despite the defeat in his lone MLS start, Richey said it was a big boost to feel he can compete in the top flight.
“It’s a confidence-builder,” he said. “I’ll put it in my locker and I’ll use it to move forward, and whenever I get my next opportunity, I’ll use this to build off of.”
Caps fans should get used to seeing Richey in front of net, as it seems likely that next opportunity will come sooner rather than later. It stands to reason that he will become, at minimum, Ousted’s full-time backup in the near future and will continue to receive the lion’s share of cup matches in the meantime.
It seems fitting--both men are almost exactly the same height and possess the athleticism to make some acrobatic saves. While he lost his MLS debut, he did manage to score the league’s save of the week honors for this effort halting TFC’s Justin Morrow.
Ousted is the Caps’ first-string keeper for the foreseeable future but, at 32, that future will not last forever. Having Richey as a capable understudy is a luxury and while he is not as young as some of the other phenom talent coming through the pipeline, it is not unusual to see keepers blossom later. Being able to learn from a former MLS all-star like Ousted can only help Spencer’s development and when the Dane hangs up his spikes the Caps will be in safe hands.