It was about a week ago that one of MLS’ legendary coaches called Donovan Ricketts one of the best goalkeepers in the league, saying that the Jamaican veteran should be getting MVP consideration.
On Saturday against the Philadelphia Union, the Timbers' lanky ‘keeper did his best to back up Bruce Arena’s assessment in a scoreless draw at PPL Park. Ricketts recorded four saves, including three in the second half and two in rather spectacular fashion, to pick up his ninth clean sheet of the campaign, tied for the most in MLS this season.
“We wanted to control the game and we knew they were going to have moments, so we were prepared for what they were going to throw at us,” Ricketts said. “The Union are a good team, and they have 31 points in this league. When you have that many it means you’re doing something right.”
Portland’s defense, which has allowed the fewest goals in MLS, held Philadelphia without a goal for just the second time in their last 15 games, even with the Union’s goal scoring machine Jack McInerney back from Gold Cup duty.
Ricketts’ performance highlighted an overall staunch effort by the Timbers backline, particularly from center backs Andrew Jean Baptiste and Pa Modou Kah.
“We’re proven to be a stingy team defensively,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said. “That makes me happy because there are going to be games where you just can’t find the goal, but at the very least you shouldn’t lose. And if you get a clean sheet, you’re not losing. At least you get a point, and on the road, it’s not all bad to get a point.”
Ricketts set the tone when Philadelphia’s Danny Cruz used a nifty move to split two defenders and fire off a curling shot on goal in the 32nd minute. But Ricketts was able to parry it away with a diving effort.
Then in the 71st minute, Ricketts made a leaping save on a close-in Connor Casey blast that was headed for the top corner.
Union coach Rob Vartughian echoed Arena’s assessment.
“The save he made on Conor [Casey] is world class,” Vartughian said. “We felt, to get to that point in the game, when we were on their end and we were pressing, it was a disappointment to not find a way to get a goal. You have to tip your hat to the guy, he makes an unbelievable save.”
Ricketts said the team was looking to regain their solid road form after falling away from home for the first time this season two weekends ago at the Columbus Crew, a game that also ended Portland’s franchise-best 15-game winning streak.
“We responded well,” Ricketts said. “It was a bad game against Columbus on our part. We went home and we set things right against LA. Now we are on the road and got a point, so it’s always good to keep your scoreboard ticking.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.