18- Richie Williams
In the lower leagues of US soccer, it’s not uncommon to see players who reach the international level at the very beginning of their career or at the very end of their career. What is rare is seeing both at the same club. Kickers fans were fortunate enough to experience this in the early days of the club, as Richie Williams began and ended his professional outdoor playing career in Richmond. His five years included the club apex of the US Open Cup title in 1995 and consecutive playoff appearances in 2004 and 2005. Because of his contributions and excellence in the midfield, Richie Williams slots in at #18 in our list of the greatest Kickers of all-time.
Richie Williams’ career of winning began early, winning multiple national championships in high school in New Jersey. This continued on to the University of Virginia, where he won two national championships at the onset of Bruce Arena’s dynasty in Charlottesville. Following his graduation, he played indoor soccer for the Buffalo Blizzard before joining the Kickers for their inaugural season in 1993. After hopping over for a brief stint in Scotland, he returned to Richmond for the 1994 and 1995 seasons. The 1995 team, of course, went on to win both the Open Cup and USISL Premier League titles.
After the 1995 season, Williams signed with MLS and joined DC United. While there, he won 3 MLS Cups, 2 more Open Cups, 2 Supporters Shields, and a CONCACAF Champions Cup. During this time he received his first national team appearances, getting his first cap in 1998 against Australia. Overall, he appeared 20 times for the United States, last appearing in 2002. He spent his last years in MLS bouncing back and forth between DC and his hometown Metrostars.
Prior to the 2004 season, the Kickers signed Williams to help push the team back into the playoffs. He was named captain upon his arrival, and was successful in bringing Richmond back to where the team wants to be. Appearing 25 times, he led the team to a 2nd place finish in the Eastern Conference, finishing only 3 points behind league leading Montreal. Even more surprising, he scored twice that season! The team also made another Open Cup run, reaching the quarterfinals after beating DC United at City Stadium. 2005 started fast, with the team jumping out to a top of the table position through the end of May. Williams made 23 appearances for the team before leaving the squad late in the season, ultimately retiring.
As a defensive midfielder, Richie was never one to accumulate too many counting stats. What didn’t pop up on the scoresheet, he brought in leadership. That has continued after his career too, moving up in the coaching world. He’s been an assistant at Virginia, the Red Bulls, and Real Salt Lake, and the head coach of Loudoun United and the US U17 and 18 national teams. He has become a trusted advisor of Bruce Arena, assisting him in the 2017 US qualifying cycle and now with the New England Revolution. While small in stature, Richie’s name is large in US lore, and we were fortunate to have him in Richmond for significant portions of his career.