Welcome to our first installment of the Kickers offseason roundup, where we tell you what has been happening since the season has ended and get you ready for 2013!
The first bit of news from the Kickers offseason is that Shane Johnson, standout centerback, has been resigned to a multi-year deal. On the surface, this seems a little strange to me; Johnson played very well throughout his first season, besides when he was injured, and he could be in line for a move up the ladder in the coming years. Although it is rare, players have made transfers directly from the lower leagues of American soccer to MLS; the more typical route is that an out of contract player gets offered a trial and then signs with an MLS team. For an example, Osvaldo Alonso, currently a fixture of the MLS Best XI team, had his rights purchased by the Seattle Sounders from the Charleston Battery. But playing time is key and Johnson will definitely get playing time in Richmond. In a few years, he may be moving up.
A second bit of news is that the Richmond Kickers will be holding open tryouts in February and March. Unlike MLS, which holds a draft in January, USL Pro (and NASL, for that matter), allow teams to sign whichever players they can get. For the Kickers, these tryouts have produced such notable names as Ronnie Pascale and Clyde Simms. These sessions will take place after the USL Combine, which takes place in Bradenton, Florida, January 24-27.
Finally, a number of key players have retired. As was well expected, Ronnie Pascale has officially retired, having been a mainstay with the Kickers for the past 12 years. In addition, midfielder Nozomi Hiroyama has also announced his retirement. And while it has not been announced, I would expect Mike Burke to return to retirement after having been called back during a shortage of midfielders. That is a lot of experience leaving the team, and we wish them all the best in their furture endeavors.
Keep your eyes open for more offseason USL news, coming next week, which includes expansion and a rumored MLS-USL partnership.