By Daniel Cermak/NPSL.com
Matt Broomall, Lucas Mendes and Justin Grove all signed professional contracts with the Richmond Kickers this month, and all three are looking to make an impact in USL League One.
Broomall, a goalkeeper, is honored by the opportunity to join the Kickers and has enjoyed his first few weeks with the squad.
“First impressions are all very positive, right off the bat it was very welcoming and very open which was very attractive to me,” Broomall said. “And the level is really high, which is a really good thing day in and day out.”
Broomall began his professional career in Sweden before joining Richmond, and being able to play near friends and family means a lot.
“The United States is home, and my family are planning on coming down to see a game,” Broomall said. “It’s very important to be able to share my journey with all my friends and family.”
The summer before signing for Richmond, Broomall held it down between the posts for Atlantic City FC of the NPSL. During his time with Atlantic City FC, Broomall learned from a number of former USL and MLS players on the squad.
“We had a number of players who played in the MLS and USL as well as top leagues around the world, so that was fantastic to be held to that high standard everyday to see how they conduct themselves,” Broomall said. “And (Atlantic City FC Head Coach) Kristian O’Leary brought a level that was great for me to learn from.”
Atlantic City FC Co-Owner Nick Bilotta was pleased with Broomall’s contributions to the club.
“Matt was a leader on and off the pitch,” Bilotta said. “He was tireless in training and was a complete and total professional.”
Now that he has had time to settle into his new home, Broomall is focused on consistent improvement of not only himself, but his teammates as well.
“I want to improve to the very best of my ability and help the team as much as I can,” Broomall said. “Continuing to create that environment where I’m at my very best so everyone else has to be at the very best: like if we’re doing a shooting drill and I’m in top form, the strikers have to be as well.”
Lucas Mendes joined the Kickers following his time with NPSL side FC Baltimore, and boasts an impressive soccer resume, including being named Gatorade High School National Player of the Year, both a club and high school All-American, and a part of the U.S. U-16 and U-20 national team squads. Signing with Richmond meant the realization of Mendes’ dream to play professionally, and Mendes is bringing his fiery, competitive spirit to the USL.
“It’s everything that you worked for since you were a kid,” Mendes said. “I’m ready to prove myself and get going.”
Though Mendes picked up an injury, he’s enjoyed his time with the Kickers and is adjusting to the professional game.
“It’s really been great,” Mendes said. “We have a great group of guys and I’m excited to get the season started and get back to playing.”
Mendes’ experience with FC Baltimore helped prepare him for the professional ranks.
“FC Baltimore helped me a lot,” Mendes said. “They gave me a platform to show what I can do to the professional clubs. I played well and I’m here now.”
FC Baltimore General Manager Alex Lubyansky was impressed by Mendes’ play with FC Baltimore and wishes him the best in his professional career.
“Lucas is a true pro,” Lubyansky said. “His commitment with FCB in 2018 stood out amongst the rest and he has tremendous flair in the attack.”
From here on out, Mendes is looking to do whatever he can to earn playing time after he recovers.
“My goal for myself is just to play as much as possible,” Mendes said. “To prove myself to everyone that doesn’t believe in me, (to prove) that I’m good enough to play at this level.”
NPSL alum and well-traveled soccer pro Justin Grove also signed with the Kickers, and has the opportunity to join his hometown side. Grove grew up in the Kickers youth program before attending the University of Richmond. From there Grove spent three seasons in France with Red Star FC, then Magic FC and Grassy Park United in South Africa, before joining Charlottesville Alliance FC of the NPSL.
Charlottesville Alliance FC Executive Director David Deaton recognizes that Grove helped elevate everyone around him.
“From the moment he arrived to training everyone knew that they had to up their approach, intensity, and dedication to match his,” Deaton said. “He helped establish the level of quality we wanted to build at our program.”
From here, the new signees have a clear goal for the team.
“I think our goal is to win the championship,” Mendes said. “I think we’re good enough and I think we’re close enough to win it.”
Broomall summed up the team’s goal succinctly and without hesitation: “Championship. League One Championship. Absolutely.”
Photo Credit: Christopher Fincham, Charlottesville Alliance FC, Jessica Stone Hendricks Photography, and John Dimaio