Last week I talked with Spencer Richey, a goalkeeper for the University of Washington. Going into his senior season, Richey and Washington both had high expectations. Washington was ranked 21st in the national and Richey was consistently being in the top collegiate goalkeeper conversations. However in the fourth game of the season he broke his leg and was out for the year. Spencer took some time to talk to me about his year and where he stands now going forward.
Photo by Wilson Tsoi
Can you talk about how you got to Washington? What were the steps that took you there?
Yeah, I grew up about five minutes from the University. I was fortunate to be invited to the residency program down in Florida with the US 17s. I wasn’t getting too much love in terms of getting attention from colleges so when I went to residency that sparked up a lot of interest. Having that on your resume is obviously attractive for lots of college coaches. I looked at UNC a lot. Wake Forest a little bit. Maryland a little bit. At the end of the day, it’s always been a dream to play college soccer as a Huskie. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Going to games as a young kid and watching guys play… This is something I’ve always wanted to do and I’m 100% happy that I made the decision to come here.
So you went to see the Huskies play soccer growing up?
Oh, yeah! I was a ball boy and was always down there trying to get their autograph. I remember way back in the day watching CJ Klaas and some other big time Washington players that really helped the program in the early 2000s. So, yeah, I’ve been a Huskie fan for a long time, especially Huskie soccer so it’s cool to finally be able to play for them.
Entering the season, Washington was really highly touted and you yourself had a lot of hot press. What were some goals for the team and yourself this season?
Similar to some of our goals as last year, but we had a little bit higher expectation this year. We knew we had the players and we knew we had a good off-season so our expectation was, first, to compete for the Pac 12 title. Earlier in my career, we might not have had as high expectation but Jamie Clark, our head coach, really implemented in us that we have to raise our standards and raise what we expect out of ourselves. So the Pac-12 title was something we definitely had our eyes on. And that starts with having a good non-conference to start the season and working those things out and becoming better as a team because you don’t have much time in preseason to do so. At mid-season, being a top four seed was realistic for us and became one of our goals. Now that we’re here, our goal is to win and make it to the Final Four to have a chance in Philly.
Fourth game of the season, y’all are playing UConn and all I could read was a bunch of tweets that said, “Spencer Richey broke his leg”. I couldn’t find anything more than that. Could you walk us through that injury and how that happened?
It’s kind of funny because the doctors were asking me what happened and I was telling them. I was talking to one of teammates and he was like, “No, that’s not at all what happened.” So my memory was a little disjointed, for lack of a better word. It was kind of an awkward challenge. A guy got slipped in on a 1v1 and I came out on a close angle. He took a big touch so I came out sliding as he was lunging for the ball. I don’t think it was a dirty challenge, I think it was one of those unfortunate ones where his cleats went right through my mid-shin, on the inside of my right leg. The force just unfortunately fractured my tibia and fibula. Actually, when I got the cast off two weeks later there were some cleat marks and stuff. So that’s my best guess as to what happened.
Ryan Herman came in and has played throughout the season. What was yall’s relationship like and did you have any advice for him going into that?
We are so fortunate to have the quality of goalkeepers that we have. Ryan is a local guy so I’ve known him before he went down to Santa Clara. ** But he’s stepped up and been totally awesome for us. Him and I get along really well. When I was down and shaken up a bit in the hospital weeks he was super supportive and told me he was praying for me.
When I was in Florida I was backup for a year and a half so I was trying to help him out in a sense of what it’s like to come in from a position when you’re not exactly the main guy and you have to step into it. It’s especially difficult for goalkeepers because your games are irreplicable. You just can’t replicate them at practice so for him to step in and play the way he’s played this season, for the lack of games he’s played for the past year or two, has totally been a huge part of our success.
** Sophomore goalkeeper Ryan Herman transferred from Santa Clara to Washington after his freshman year
Health-wise, where are you now?
I had my second check up about eleven weeks out of surgery. I just got cleared to walk without the boot a couple of days ago. I’ve been off crutches for a little over a month now. So, yeah. I’m walking. My rehab is slowly starting to move into getting my calf back, my quad back, and my hamstring. I’m trying to do some gateway exercises that hopefully in another three to four weeks to do some really light jogging. And hopefully in the next six weeks I’ll be able to do some jogging on it.
Photo by Sang Cho
I read that you have the option of taking a medical redshirt for this season to play next year. Is that still an option? Are you still looking at that?
It’s one of my first thoughts when I went down. It was an unfortunate situation but one of the parts that I was fortunate in was that it was early enough in the season. So appealing for a medical redshirt and a fifth year is totally an option. It’s something I will definitely apply for. I’ve been talking with Jamie [Clark] and the staff a lot and they’re super supportive. If they think in six months what’s best for me is to come back for a fifth year they’d be happy. But maybe if something pops up, some opportunities at the next level this summer or who knows, that I shouldn’t turn down then you just have to take and go with it. He knows; he’s dealt with and been at big time programs in the past and he’s dealt with tons of players. He’s not a coach that wants to smother you if he thinks there’s a good opportunity for you. He’s totally selfless in that area. He just wants his players to be successful. At this point in the plan, yes, it’s to come back for next year, excluding anything that pops up this summer.
If a NASL or USL Pro team reached out to you, would you be able to now make a decision on it?
Uh… Yeah, I think… *pause* it’s tough to evaluate. Each situation is different than the next one. The first thing that I have on my plate is to get my leg back healthy, get back to playing and to get back to 100%. Then I’ll go from there. I have a lot of good people in my corner giving me a lot of good advice so I’m sure when the time comes I’ll have the right advice to make the proper decision.
Washington beat Stanford on Sunday, 1-0, and will face New Mexico on December 7th, 8pm ET. For more interviews, check out:
Alan Mayer, 1970s USMNT goalkeeper, 1978 NASL Player of the Year
Brad Stuver, ex-MLS Pool keeper and current Columbus Crew goalkeeper