Portland Timbers Player Rankings #21: Brent Richards

Sadly, this is the most flattering photo we have of Brent Richards. There will be more to choose from next year. - Steve Dipaola

The Timbers' first -- and as yet only -- home grown player, Brent Richards was the 2010 PDL Most Valuable Player (as well as the league's Rookie of the Year), after leading his Timbers U23s to their perfect season.

That Brent Richards, a Washington native and graduate of the University of Washington, joined MLS as a Portland Timbers home grown player was a point of contention between supporters of the Seattle Sounders and the Timbers. But as Richards was developed through East Side United, which the league determined was a retroactive development system for the Timbers, his destination was Portland.

Richards has dazzled fans with his strong throw-ins and a vertical leap which belies his 5'10" frame, allowing him to win aerial battles against the big CBs of MLS. He has a great mind for the game as well, able to make quick decisions that keep the attack flowing. With more MLS experience, he has the look of a Chris Wondolowski type of player, who can hang around the 18, sneak his way into the right positions, and poach goals.

Unfortunately, when he did see time on the first team, it was typically on the wing, where his talents are less effective, and where his relative lack of skill with the ball at his feet was at times a liability. He himself expressed an unfamiliarity with the position during the preseason, saying, "It's a completely different role."

Humble hard worker that he is, though, he was happy to play whatever role the team asked of him, and he did so with aplomb.

Should he stay?

Yup. As a home grown player Richards does not take cap space, so there would be very little reason to let him go even if he didn't show a spark in his first season. Even playing outside his natural position, Richards surprised the Timbers' opponents when he was on the field with his smart play and athletic abilities. He needs to stay -- and start -- in 2013.

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