UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. — Dane Richards did it for love of club, not country.
Last week, the speedy Red Bulls right winger turned down the opportunity to play with the Jamaican national team in their international friendly in China on Wednesday. He wanted to remain with his club team ahead of an important league match against the Chicago Fire on Saturday.
Richards, who at 27 years old is already one of the most senior members of head coach Theodore Whitmore’s Reggae Boyz, wanted to focus on the remainder of the MLS season.
“I got the invite and I thought about it,” Richards told MLSsoccer.com. “There has been a lot of travel lately and we just got back from London [from the Emirates Cup]. It’s a lot of travel and while I want to play for Jamaica, I told the coach that the time wasn’t right for me right now.”
Richards, who has 32 caps and seven goals for his country, recently represented Jamaica in this past summer’s Gold Cup. But this time he didn’t answer his country’s call, although he did follow the game on the phone, caught the highlights and even spoke to Whitmore on Thursday morning.
Red Bulls manager Hans Backe was pleased to hear of the decision that allowed his winger to stick around for a week of solid training with the team.
The Red Bulls are looking to make a push for the playoffs and to regain the top spot in the Eastern Conference. And the postseason charge was a big factor into why Richards decided to stick around and forego the call-up.
“We need to be more consistent, we need to play better and the next few games are very important for us,” Richards said. “I don’t want to say it is must-win for us [Saturday vs. Chicago] but we need to start getting some wins. A lot of other teams have been getting ties in the East.”
It was around this time last year that Richards caught fire in the league, scoring five goals from July through the middle of September. His confidence was at all-time high and while he has scored just three times this season, Richards isn’t looking at the stats.
“For me, it isn’t about how I’m playing or what goals I get,” Richards said. “I just want to help the team win, be a good teammate, and help anyway I can. If I get goals or assists, that’s fine. If not and we win, that’s fine, too.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer