Brent Richards isn’t concerning himself with a possible future in professional soccer.
Too soon for that.
The Camas native is focusing on the here and now, which today means trying to help the Portland Timbers under-23 team beat the Tacoma Tide in a Premier Development League match at Kiggins Bowl.
The 7 p.m. match could feature three former Camas Papermakers. Richards and Nick Palodichuck play for the Timbers U23s, while Quinton Beasley is with Tacoma.
IF YOU GO
■ What: Timbers U23s vs. Tacoma Tide.
■ When: 7 p.m. today.
■ Where: Kiggins Bowl in Vancouver.
■ Cost: Tickets $8 at the gate.
A portion of the price goes to Vancouver United youth soccer club.
The 2010 PDL most valuable player, Richards is on the Timbers list of home-grown players. That means the team — if it chooses — can have first dibs on signing Richards to an MLS contract.
Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson said that any decision about offering Richards a home-grown player MLS contract is far down the road.
“Brent’s a good player. He has a lot to work on though,” Wilkinson said.
Richards is preparing for his senior season at the University of Washington. For the third year in a row, playing for the Timbers U23s is his soccer summer school.
And this summer, it’s a high-intensity course.
Timbers U-23 coach Jim Rilatt is teaching his team to play the same high-pressure style that Timbers head coach John Spencer asks of his MLS squad. It’s a style that requires Richards, a forward, and everyone else in the lineup, to do more running.
“It’s high-tempo and fast-paced,” Richards said. “We’re going to be running the whole time.”
Adjusting to the demands of that style, Rilatt said, has been the biggest challenge for his team this season.
After winning all of its games last summer, the U23 team is 4-4-1 midway through this PDL season. The coach said his team played some of its best soccer in two losses last weekend in British Columbia, but didn’t convert some quality scoring chances and ran out of steam playing on consecutive days.
Richards said that last summer’s success with the Timbers U23 team — 14 goals in 12 regular-season matches, and two in the national championship match — carried over to his junior season with the Huskies. Specifically, it improved his understanding of the commitment needed to succeed at a high level, increased his confidence, helped him be more comfortable in leadership situations.
Richards has 21 goals and 10 assists in 54 career games as a Husky. Washington went 11-6-1 last fall, barely missing the NCAA Tournament.
Richards has played in seven of nine matches thus far this PDL season, contributing four goals and two assists. Because of classes, this is the first week he has attended all of the Timbers’ practices — a fact that Richards said should improve his play.
While Richards is preparing for his last college season, Palodichuk is getting ready for his first. He enrolled at Duke University this spring. Too old to play for the Sounders FC Academy U-18 team this summer, Palodichuk said his college coach recommended he play in the PDL with the Timbers.
“It’s a really great opportunity,” Palodichuk said. “I really enjoy playing with and getting to know players from a lot of different places.”
Rilatt is glad to have him. The coach said Palodichuk has embraced the demands of the Timbers’ high-pressure style.
“He’s strong, he’s emotionally mature, and he’s really motivated to make his game better,” Rilatt said.
Palodichuk, who has played in six games and has one goal and one assist, said he isn’t sure how much he’ll play today. He returned to practice on Thursday after a week away from the Timbers to participate in Camas High School graduation events.