BEAVERTON — On July 28, Brent Richards started a Major League Soccer match for the first time.
The Camas native didn't get a goal in that match against Chivas USA at Jeld-Wen Field, but the Portland Timbers rookie played well enough to earn honorable mention on the MLS team of the week — and to earn another start one week later against FC Dallas.
But Richards hasn't seen action with the Timbers first team since.
"I didn't play as well in that (Dallas) game, so I understand," Richards said. "I didn't train very well for a couple of weeks, maybe a month after that."
With four games left on the schedule — including Saturday's home match against DC United — Richards is focused on training well enough to earn a spot among the 18 players who suit up for the remaining games.
Richards said that his confidence dipped after the poor performance against Dallas. He said the uncertainty was similar to the way he felt during the first few months of the season.
"I wasn't training well. I wasn't doing the things that I do well, that I had been doing well up until that point," Richards said. "I couldn't do simple things. I kept getting in my own head, and it made every single thing that I did become difficult."
Making the situation more challenging, it happened during a nearly month-long break in the Timbers reserve team schedule.
"There was no connection between my head and my feet. So I would try to overcomplicate things, try to fix things and I just went deeper in the hole."
On Aug. 26, Richards played all 90 minutes and scored the Timbers only goal in a Reserve League loss to San Jose at Jeld-Wen Field. He started having fun again.
"Even if I don't play well in reserve games, I always train well afterwards," Richards said. "So getting that game time is big. That game experience is so much different than training."
Richards said the Timbers coaching staff has continued to encourage him.
"It's been tough not getting in the squad for the last couple of months," he said. For the rest of the season, I'm just trying to get that spot back in the 18 and get playing again."