After developing in the Richmond United academy system, Victor Falck became the first player from the program to sign with the Richmond Kickers.
After numerous long drives from Virginia Beach and three years playing collegiately at UC Irvine, Victor Falck is ready to start his professional career. He is one of the numerous new faces to join the Richmond Kickers under head coach Darren Sawatzky. Earlier this year I spoke with the director of Richmond United, Sascha Goerres, to learn more about the program. As we await the start of the 2020 USL League One season, I spoke with Victor to get to know one of the newest and youngest Kickers.
1) You are from the Virginia Beach area, what was the soccer culture growing up there – both with local soccer and the global game?
VF: I would say the soccer culture in Virginia Beach is very laid back. Tons of kids play the sport growing up, and many continue playing for their high school teams, and there’s support from family and close friends, but there’s not much going on beyond that. Other sports, mainly the more American sports dominate the area. Soccer has definitely grown, but people more enjoy it as a hobby, and it’s not something that a lot of people are passionate about.
The Hampton Roads is home to almost two million people, and the highest level of soccer in the area is either semi-professional in the NPSL, or Old Dominion University at the collegiate level. ODU have been very successful over the years and can attract a couple of thousand fans during a successful season and a quality matchup game, but I don’t know that the semi-professional teams are close to breaking a thousand fans at their home games.
You would expect that a metropolitan area with almost two million people should be able to draw much larger crowds but the demand for soccer in the area just doesn’t seem to be there yet. I know there were professional teams in the past that played in the old USL leagues before I moved to Virginia Beach, but the teams didn’t last and I think one of the main reasons is because there is not enough interest and passionate soccer supporters in the area. The same goes with supporting soccer on a global level. There is only ever really a lot of interest in the game during the World Cup, both for men and women.
2) Tell us about how you got connected with the Richmond United academy program, and you made the decision to make those long drives to train with the team.
VF: I was playing with the Virginia Rush academy prior to Richmond United, and our team lost our spot in the US soccer development academy, which meant we were dropping to a lower league and just playing local Virginia teams. Immediately, I was trying to look for other options as I knew that wasn’t going to be good for my development. Soon after I heard that the Richmond clubs were creating Richmond United and there were a couple of us that were interested in potentially doing the drive so it was the only thing that made sense for us at the time.
We had a couple of training sessions and tryouts in the spring and summer leading up to the first season, and I enjoyed the quality of the players and the coaching staff so, in the end, it was a very easy decision for me to commit to playing for the club. Our parents took turns driving us up there though so the toughest decision and sacrifice was definitely made by them so I am grateful for that.
3) Prior to that, you played in the Swedish academy Örgryte IS, which is the oldest club in Sweden. How was that experience and do you hope to one day return to play overseas?
VF: Örgryte was a fantastic club for me where I have positive memories. I came to the club when I was 10 after playing for my small local club in my hometown of Landvetter. Örgryte was the club where I became truly obsessed with soccer and my obsession allowed me to grow tremendously as a player. While in Örgryte, I featured for the Gothenburg district team which includes the best players of that age group in the Gothenburg area. Around half of that team has featured for one of the youth national teams over the years, and I believe three of them have already featured for the full men’s national team so it was a great experience.
I’ve continued to follow Örgryte closely since I moved over to the US. It would be a dream come true to play for them one day; so, if they ever reach out to me, then I would always be excited to hear what they’d have to say. I used to have a great desire to go back to Europe to play, but I have been very impressed by the growth of the American soccer leagues and the fans here so I definitely don’t mind staying on this side of the pond either.
4) Then in college, you played a season at Virginia before transferring to UC Irvine. What prompted that switch and how was the adjustment to moving across the country?
VF: My time at Virginia was filled with a lot of ups and downs, and I learned a ton from my experience there. I came into the program during the spring semester which is the offseason for college. I was immediately moved down as a center back and had a pretty good spring season where I was starting. The coaches were really happy with me and the even said I was the best defender in the squad at the time. But over the summer some new players were brought in which made the competition tougher, and I quickly realized I wasn’t the favorite anymore. I ended up starting in the preseason and the first two games of the season, where we won four out of the five games and drew one. After that, I fell out of favor and I didn’t really understand why. I tried to get feedback but it didn’t really feel genuine, and I was left to figure it out on my own. We also started losing some games, but I never got another chance that year.
There was definitely a big adjustment in the playing style moving across the country. I went from one of the most athletic teams in college soccer to one of the most technical teams. But Yossi and his staff worked very hard to teach me the best they could and it allowed me to have a great development curve in the program where I was able to win a championship with the team and also some individual awards.
5) Now you are back playing in Richmond, how did the opportunity with the Kickers come about?
VF: My old Richmond United academy coach, Sascha Görres, reached out to me back in November and asked if I could come out for a Richmond United alumni game. I was in California at the time, so unfortunately, I couldn’t make it for the alumni game. But I asked him if he was still involved within the Kickers organization and if he wouldn’t mind forwarding some of my footage and info to the coaches. I ended up speaking to Mika for a bit before Darren gave me a call and from there on out the process just felt natural and the right step for me in my career.
6) You are the first Richmond United alumni to sign a professional contract with the Kickers, how does that feel after all those long drives from VA Beach and do you think we will see more players from Richmond United sign with the Kickers in the years ahead?
VF: It is definitely very rewarding, and it makes both myself and my family feel like it was worth the drive. Although I haven’t lived in Richmond, being back and training at Ukrop Park and seeing the city just feels like home in a way. I’ve always felt welcomed and appreciated here, and I think that is a key element for me to be able to grow as a player.
I definitely believe that there’s a big possibility we’ll see more Richmond United players with the Kickers team. When I was with Richmond United, we had players like Nick Tatigue and Chris Durkin who are the type that top clubs want to bring into their youth academies at early ages. It’s always going to be hard to bring in those types of talents to the USL when there are MLS clubs and European clubs in the picture. But we had a group of players that were good but not quite at that level, that I think are capable to do well here in Richmond following their college careers.
I’ve followed my old teammates throughout their college careers and there’s definitely a couple of players that I played with in Richmond United that have the potential to do very well in the USL. I know Keenan O’Shea scored tons of goals up at Army and Brandon Hackenberg had a standout season at Penn State this year so I am hoping the club keeps up the contact with them to see if we can bring them back to Richmond once they are finished with school. I am not too familiar with the younger generations of college players that have graduated from Richmond United, but I know we have sent some quality players to some quality schools and I am sure if these players stay focused on improving that they will have an opportunity to come back and play for the Kickers after.
7) What position do you feel is your best at the moment heading into your first professional season?
VF: I have played the holding midfielder position or at times box-to-box midfielder during my past three years so that’s definitely where I feel the most comfortable. I am able to play as an attacking mid or center back as well should the coaching staff see a benefit in me playing in either of those positions.
8) When you aren’t focused on playing, who are your favorite teams to support – soccer or in another sport?
VF: The team I follow the most passionately is Sweden’s national team. I love following the team and it gets me the most emotional of all teams that I follow. I also follow Örgryte IS closely and try to watch all of their games online still, even though it has been a tough decade for the club. Other than soccer, I watch a lot of cross country skiing which raises a lot of question marks from my friends, and I am also a Lebron fan so I’ll support whichever side of the court that he is on.
9) What TV show or movies have you been watching during this downtime?
VF: I haven’t really been watching that many shows or movies thus far. I’ve been trying to learn some instruments, and there’s been a fair deal of video games as well. My roommates (Stanley Alves and Ryley Kraft) and I have moved our Playstations and TVs to the living room so we have a little arcade in our living room at the moment where we usually spend a couple of hours a day playing video games.
10) Once everything is open again, what is one of your favorite places in the Richmond area that you would recommend people check out?
VF: I think Carytown is my favorite so far. I haven’t explored nearly as much as I wish I would have. But Carytown has a lot of cool murals and restaurants with good food so I definitely would recommend taking a stroll through that part of town.
Thanks to Victor for taking the time to answer these questions and we look forward to seeing him on the pitch for the Richmond Kickers later this year.