One of the fastest players in the New York Red Bulls’ history, Dane Richards, reflects on his time with the club.
It’s rare for a player to say he wanted to get drafted in the second round rather than the first round. That was the case for Clemson University star soccer player, Dane Richards, before the 2007 MLS SuperDraft.
Richards wanted to get drafted in the second round because there was this one particular team he wanted to play for—the New York Red Bulls. The outside midfielder wanted to play for the Red Bulls because he had family members in New York.
The first round ended and none of the MLS teams with picks chose Richards. Five more picks unscrolled in the second round, the Jamaican still didn’t hear his name.
The Red Bulls were then on the clock.
“With the 19th pick of the second round of the 2007 MLS SuperDraft, the New York Red Bulls select from Clemson University, Dane Richards.”
The love story began.
“It [my time with RBNY] was the best part of my life. That club will always be in a special part in my heart,” the ex-New York player said.
“The whole organization, I owe them a lot.”
It was also the beginning of flashes and lightning in New Jersey. Richards is one of the fastest players to ever wear a Red Bulls jersey.
Needless to say, when he started his first preseason training sessions with New York, it was different from college. The speed of play was faster. But it didn’t take long for him to transition.
It’s never easy for a rookie to get playing time for the Red Bulls. Not only did the winger put himself in the starting lineup, but he was one of the team’s most valuable players in 2007. He tallied the second-most assists on the team and the most out of all the rookies in the league, collecting six in 28 games.
Richards was one of the three nominees to win the Rookie of the Year award.
“I just kept on trying to keep working hard, don’t get carried away because as I learned early things can change just like that,” the Caribbean said about his promising rookie season. “You can get hurt right away, many things can happen. I just sticked to the task, tried to improve and learned as much as possible because I know things can change really fast.”
In his second MLS season, Richards was yet again a starter. He played one of the most memorable games of his career that campaign, the second leg of the Western Conference semifinal versus Houston Dynamo.
The first leg ended 1-1 at Giants Stadium. Going into the second encounter there was a load of friendly trash talk.
“There was a lot of back and forth between me and the Houston players, you know, nothing malice,” the speedster recalled. “It was a lot of crap talking. I knew I had to back it up when I got to Houston.
“They were the defending champions, so it was like ‘Oh, no chance for us, no chance.’ We came in fifth spot [the last playoff spot] and they were number one. Because of the talking between me and their fans and their players, I knew I had to come up with something huge because they would shut me up. I didn’t want to be shut up, I wanted to shut them up.”
The Dynamo were tortured by Richards’ best weapon, his speed. He flew between two Houston players in the box to score the opener in the 26th minute.
Later in the 35th minute, Richards flicked the ball over Wade Barrett’s head on the right flank, then elegantly bounced the ball off his head twice while running. He delivered a cross when he got in the final third. Ricardo Clark deflected the cross with his hand in the box to concede a penalty kick that Juan Pablo Angel converted.
Richards wasn’t done yet, the best was to come. In the 81st minute, he blew past Bobby Boswell down the right wing before leaving Corey Ashe behind. Ashe wasn’t a slow player, so he caught up to Richards in the box and tried to tackle him, but he was left on the turf—literally.
After his 50-meter sprint, the Jamaican sent John Wolyniec on goal with a low-cross. If Red Bulls fans had to remember Richards for one thing on the pitch, it has to be for his dashing runs. The midfielder enjoyed zooming past players.
“Running past defenders knowing that they can’t catch me, of course, that is fun. But if they do catch you, they’re going to make sure you don’t do it again,” the 36-year-old said.
The Red Bulls reached the final that season against Columbus Crew. Richards reminisced on how easy it was “to get carried away” because of all the media that was involved. RBNY had nothing to lose in that game, he explained because they were the underdogs.
Despite all the distractions, the Red Bulls players were focused. There was a feeling that they “could actually do it” in their locker room.
Unfortunately, New York lost the final, 3-1. Richards assisted his team’s lone goal. It was the Montego Bay United F.C’s youth product only appearance to the MLS final, as well as, the Red Bulls.
Richards was involved in another key moment in the RBNY’s history two years later: the opening game of their first home stadium, the Red Bull Arena.
Richards compared leaving Giants Stadium for RBA to leaving an apartment to go to your own new house. New York’s first match at RBA was against Santos F.C, a team that was led by Brazilian superstar Neymar Jr. at the time.
Richards got himself on the scoresheet with what he calls “a bomber.” It was an exquisite shot from outside the box to the far corner.
The creation of a new stadium was one of the reasons why New York had some of the most electrifying fans in the MLS last decade. Richards was mesmerized by the RBNY supporters.
“Red Bulls fans, I think they are the best in the MLS, trust me,” the winger said. “When they get that stadium pumping, you can feel it on the field and that helped us a lot.”
The Red Bulls topped the Eastern Conference in 2010.
To add to playing in front of this devout fanbase, four months after the opening of RBA, New York acquired a world superstar, Thierry Henry. Richards remembered watching Henry in the 1998 World Cup, amazed by how talented he was. Twelve years later, he was on the same team with him.
Henry and Richards connected well on the pitch. The Jamaican played his best season, statistically, in 2011 with Henry as his teammate.
Hence, Richards was with the Red Bulls during three key moments in their history: the Henry-era, the MLS Cup appearance, and the opening of the Red Bull Arena. Sadly, he had to say goodbye to New York in 2012 when he was traded to Vancouver Whitecaps.
“That was my home for six years. It was really, really, really tough,” Richards said.
“After I got off the phone, I really was thinking I was taking a nap and I was dreaming. And then I looked at my phone and I was like ‘Oh, that call actually really happened.’”
He played for Vancouver, Burnley F.C. and FK Bodø/Glimt after leaving The Metros. Richards excitingly returned to the club in 2015, but for only half of a season. He retired with USL side, Indy Eleven, that same year.
Nowadays, the former RBNY man is an Austin Texans F.C. youth coach. Red still runs deep within Richards. He still watches the Red Bulls play, even saw their last game versus Real Salt Lake.
Richards was one of the most important pieces in New York’s success in the late 2000s and early 2010s. But as for his flashing runs down the wings, they will forever remain one of the most alluring pieces of art in the Red Bulls’ gallery. The Dynamo players are still trying to catch him.