First, following Ottawa Fury’s loss to the New York Cosmos in the 2015 Soccer Bowl, Richter decided to return home, signing for Bethlehem Steel of the USL. Wedding band shining in the sunlight at Mitchel Field, Richter talked about how family played a part in leaving the NASL finalists.
“We were living in Philly, just playing the games in Bethlehem. So we’re training in Philly, stuff like that. My wife and I are both from Philly, and our families are both there. She was six months pregnant at the time, so it was to be around family as much as possible, especially at a time like that. Obviously I loved it in Ottawa, nothing but good things to say. It was more of family reasons to move back home.”
Richter was not alone in leaving the Fury after that final at Shuart Stadium. Tommy Heinemann and Ritchie Ryan both moved on to new NASL clubs the following year. When asked why he thought others followed suit and what their reasoning was, Richter brought up family again.
“You only have a short career, especially in American soccer because we start so late after college. So, whenever you have the opportunity to do better for your family, you kind of have to take it. That was the case for a lot of guys. Mine was a bit different, it wasn’t really financially driven, but it’s all about taking care of your family. That’s why a lot of guys made that decision, that it was ultimately better for them.”Back home to his family, but on to a new league for Richter. How did the USL compare to the NASL for the right back?
“Very different. USL is kind of…especially the team that I was in, it was a second team for an MLS club… it’s a lot about development. A lot of my role was being relied on in training and in games was to bring the young guys along. I think a couple of guys really improved over the course of the year, and you saw two kids that signed for the Union, Derrick Jones and Auston Trusty. I’d like to think I was at least somewhat part of them moving along. Ultimately, I was really craving more for my career, and to be able to have this move to give me that, especially with games left in the season, coming to a first place club, there’s no situation better than this.”
Richter, however, certainly did a lot more than just develop players at Bethlehem. Playing a full 90 in each of his club-leading 29 appearances for the Steel, Richter also led the club in both goals (5) and assists (4), and was pegged by some analysts in Philadelphia to be a sure bet to compete for a spot at the Union next season. However, an old suitor of Richter’s came calling, and his desire to play for more than development was fulfilled.
“With Hunter Freeman moving to Miami, I’m sure that had something to do with it. I’d been in contact with Gio and Luke before, but we never got a point of me being able to come here. When the spot opened up, at a time in my career when I was looking for something more, when this opportunity came, I couldn’t be more thankful that it came, especially now. It’s a top class organization and it’s great to be here.”“I hope that I can help the team win games. The standard here is set so high… If everyone does their job, the results are going to come. I can help to try raise that standard. Whatever that means on the field, I can do it.”
Sometimes, for a player, it’s hard to move at all, let alone twice in one year. Richter’s family brought him back home from Ottawa after a loss in the final, and the aspirations for his career brought him here to Long Island. A player needs a good support system to get him through these moves, and it appears Richter has found one in his new coach. It just so happens he reminds him of an old one:
“He [Gio] reminds me a lot of Marc [Dos Santos, former Fury head coach] in Ottawa. He makes you feel so comfortable. The minute I walked in the door, I knew it was the right decision to come here. He makes you so comfortable as a person, and welcomes you to the group so well, it brings the best out of you on the field. No matter what, you know the coaches have your back on the field, and he makes it feel like a family.”