CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy have a pretty good sense of why they were beaten in Portland over the weekend, and giving up another decisive end-of-game goal is only part of it.
“Once again, Ricketts is the player of the game for them,” Bruce Arena noted following LA's training session Tuesday morning at the StubHub Center. “He's done that repeatedly this year, to position Portland to get points in games.”
Arena praised Ricketts heading into the game, calling the 36-year-old Jamaican “the best goalkeeper in the league.”
“He makes the big saves, keeps [the Timbers] in games, which is probably responsible for half their wins this year," Arena said. "I think Ricketts is responsible for half of [Portland's positive] results.”
Arena knows Ricketts well. He brought the soft-spoken 'keeper to the Galaxy in 2009, soon after taking the reigns, and Ricketts played a huge role in LA's run to the MLS Cup final that year and their Supporters' Shield triumph in 2010.
Injuries forced him out of action for most of the second half of the 2011 campaign, and Josh Saunders had assumed the No. 1 role when the Galaxy swept through the MLS playoffs for their first title in six years. He posted 30 shutouts in 77 games, regular season and playoffs, with LA.
Ricketts was sent to Montreal in a salary-cap move after the 2011 season and went to the Timbers in a trade last August. He has been critical as Portland (8-2-9) has unexpectedly risen among MLS' elite; they are second in the West, four points behind Real Salt Lake.
“He's been an MVP candidate for them,” Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza said. “The last time we played them here, he saved them big. I mean, he's done that this entire year.”
On Saturday, Ricketts made huge saves on a Juninho free kick and a Gyasi Zardes blast from 13 yards while dominating in the air to minimize LA's effectiveness on 31 crosses. On June 19 at StubHub, Ricketts slapped away a late Colin Clark shot to preserve a scoreless draw.
Arena doesn't think Ricketts gets the credit he deserves, and evidences the snub for MLS' All-Star Game roster.
“I personally [can't understand] why he isn't the All-Star goalkeeper or [widely recognized as] a candidate for MVP in this league,” Arena said. “He's been the single most important player for a team in this league this year.”