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A Showcase for NPSL Soccer

Part of the NPSL’s mission is to develop players at the collegiate level.  That mission is accomplished if you look at some of the nation’s marquee matchups in NCAA soccer this season.

The matchup between the University of Akron and Virginia Commonwealth University has to be at the top of that list.  Five RVA FC players made the starting XI for VCU, while three former and current AFC Cleveland players were part of the UA squad.

Photo Credit: Pam Moody/

Romena Bowie, Kharlton Belmar, Nate Shiffman, Assane Keita, and Jose Manel Bel made up almost half of the Rams’ starting lineup on Friday night.  All five were part of the RVA FC squad that claimed the 2013 NPSL National Championship.

“All of us got an opportunity to start 10 games together, practice everyday, and work on things from the previous fall,” Belmar stated. “We were able to perfect things. We were able to get better with each other.  It has contributed here so far, as you can see.”

Belmar had a lot of praise for the NPSL, especially the teams that the Richmond, Virginia side faced in the postseason.

“We played a series of great teams in the playoffs. It gave us an opportunity to test ourselves.”

But most of the praise was left for RVA FC head coach Grover Gibson, the reigning Alexander Arellano Memorial Trophy winner as the NPSL’s top coach.

“Grover organized an All-Star group of college kids. We came together, practiced everyday, and worked hard. It was a great group of guys.  Grover’s background in the European game helped us and he coached us to a National Championship.”

Bryan Gallego, who spent time in the NPSL in 2012, has been anchor for the Zips backline since his arrival on campus.  He has been showered with awards and honors playing under the expert tutelage of Caleb Porter and now Jared Embick.

Photo Credit: Pam Moody/

Keisuke Ohata became the first Japanese player in UA men’s soccer program history this fall, while Brad Ruhaak remains a solid defensive option off the bench for UA.  Ruhaak is expected to see time in Sunday’s match against SDSU after Gallego aggravated a groin injury against VCU.  All three have worn the colors of the AFC Cleveland Royals at some point during the past two years.

One match, two major college programs, and a showcase for the NPSL.  What a great night for the beautiful game in America.

RVA FC Signs Local Talent

Richmond’s new soccer club gives local college players the opportunity to stay fresh.

RVA Football Club (RVA FC) has signed two prominent local players from college soccer powers UVA and VCU.

Todd Wharton, a 2012 Deep Run graduate, recently finished up his freshman season at UVA. The Glenn Allen native finished the year with 18 starts, earning a spot on the All-ACC freshman team.

Now Wharton will return home to Richmond to develop his skills before his sophomore season in Charlottesville this fall.

Another Richmond Strikers alumna, Nate Shiffman will also suit up for the club’s first season. Shiffman was the captain of VCU’s NCAA tournament team this past fall and believes the new club will allow him to continue to grow.

“I’m looking forward to training over the summer and getting better every day,” Shiffman said. “Because when you train with better players you obviously get better as a player.”

The team will participate in the NPSL, which boasts some of the top collegiate players as well as former professional players. Most importantly, it gives players an opportunity to highlight their talents in front of the Richmond area, a soccer hotbed.

“There’s always been so much talent in Richmond and it’s good to have those people around you to always challenge you to get better,” said Wharton.

It also gives Wharton the opportunity to give back to the organization his father and RVA FC General Manager Greg Simmonds built, Own Touch. With the goal being to develop soccer at all ages in the area and is mostly geared to younger athletes.

“(The younger players) are always looking up to us and it’s good to give back to them and try to help them live out their dreams also,” Wharton said.

Not only will the local athletes be able to train with the local college stars but they can catch them in action in Richmond.

“It’s definitely helpful for the young kids to come out to our games, see us play at this level,” said Shiffman. “It’s a good perspective for them to watch us play, it gives them a little passion and ambition to play in college.”

Though the main goal of the new organization is what has Shiffman and Wharton most excited. Continuing to improve and hopefully make the jump to the professional ranks once their college playing days wrap up.

Learning from former European professional turned RVA FC Coach Grover Gibson is a big incentive.

“I think working with him is an excellent opportunity to teach me how to be a player professionally,” said Shiffman. “He’s like a mentor to me in a way. Because I can learn from anything he tells me.”

For the VCU midfielder those opportunities will come within the year; for Wharton he still has three years in the Cavaliers uniform and hopes to expand his abilities.

“Hopefully I can learn from all the other experienced players on the team, that I can take with me back to UVA and provide some more leadership or a different aspect to the game that I didn’t have last year,” Wharton said.

The club will open their first season in May with a full schedule to be released at a later date.

RVA Football Club and the NPSL

The Grover Gibson Soccer Foundation saw a need to provide a professional training and game atmosphere for top collegiate players and local Richmond talent to reach the next level. Now after years of preparation, that vision has come to life.

The RVA Football Club (RVA FC) will be competing in the new South Atlantic Conference of the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL). The team will consist mainly of top collegiate athletes and local talent.

The club hopes to have the opportunity to compete in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The first open tryouts will be held in February with preseason beginning May 1.

Grover Gibson, who will serve as head coach, was born in Fairfax, Virginia and signed his first professional contract after high school with VfB Stuttgart U-18. He continued his career in Germany playing professional soccer for 13 years, playing around 250 games and scoring over 20 goals, before retiring due to a serious eye injury. His last club was Rot-Weiss Ahlen in the 2. Bundesliga, where he played 30 matches and scored six goals.

“I am very pleased to be back in Richmond starting RVA FC as I have many great memories of beginning my soccer career at the Richmond Strikers. Still to this day I am still in contact with many of my original teammates,” said Grover.

General Manager Greg Simmonds played professionally for 9 years, including stints with Major League Soccer and USL-1. Simmonds finished his professional career with 75 goals and 37 assists, last playing for the Puerto Rico Islanders. Simmonds is the Co-Founder and President of Sports United, Ltd. and co-owner of Own Touch and the Greater Richmond Futsal League. He also possesses a USSF “A” national coaching license.

This program will also aid in the development of the high school aged players trying to reach their goals of playing college and professional soccer. These groups of players will have a unique opportunity to play alongside out of contract professionals and ex-professionals.

Special details will be released in March including the team roster, game schedule, promotional events, ticket information, and more. Please visit for more information.