21- Hugh Roberts
Oh baby Hugh, you got what we need! But they say he just defends, oh they say he just defends…
One of the undoubted fan favorites of the mid-2010’s for his play on the field and his personality off of it, Hugh Roberts regularly heard his song coming from the stands in City Stadium. The central defender joined the club in 2014 after a successful winter tryout, gradually growing into a critical piece for the club, capped off by a 2016 season that saw him named first team All-USL and runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year. A no-nonsense defender who also somehow combined some flair into his game, Hugh is still remembered fondly by the fanbase, and comes in at #21 on our countdown of the Greatest Kickers of All-Time.
Prior to coming to Richmond, Hugh was a standout player at George Mason University for 4 years, helping the Patriots to the 2013 Atlantic 10 championship. He was also named 2013 First Team All-Eastern Conference in the PDL while playing for the Baltimore Bohemians. Roberts stood out during the 2014 preseason, earning himself a spot on the roster as a center back. His 6’4” frame (not including his hair, which was always in an impressive high top while a Kicker) and ability on the ball gave him all the tools to succeed. He made his debut in April against Dayton, and earned his first start a month later. By the end of the season he had taken a consistent spot in the team, playing a full 90 in five of the final eight games of the season. The 2015 season was very similar in nature, with Hugh working his way into the squad after missing the first couple games.
In 2016, Hugh Roberts had his breakout season. In a season marked by bad luck and uncertainty in defense due to goalkeeper injuries, Hugh was a constant. He played every minute of every game and grew into a leader on the field. His frame also allowed him to be a threat in the attack, most notably marked by his stoppage time equalizer on the road against Cincinnati. Ever the showman, the celebration was quite the sight too! His efforts this season did not go unrecognized. Roberts was named First-Team All-League and was a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year. I was disappointed he didn’t win at the time, but looking back I guess there’s no shame in losing out to Aaron Long, who has gone on to be a staple in the national team.
Unfortunately for Kickers fans, a lot of other people took notice of Hugh in 2016 as well, and he signed with Bethlehem Steel in the offseason. While he never made the final jump to MLS, he has been a mainstay in the USL since he left Richmond, starring for Bethlehem, Pittsburgh, Charlotte, and now Monterrey Bay. He’s become widely known as one of the league’s most reliable defenders on the field, and a strong advocate off the field. He helped form the USL Black Players Alliance during the 2020 season, and has given an insight into his life and causes through his Backyard Footy podcast. Hugh is one of the good guys, and his legend lives on in Richmond and beyond.