Looking to improve a defense that currently ranks 14th in Major League Soccer with a 1.69 goals-against-average, the Portland Timbers on Wednesday became just the second team in MLS history to acquire a defender as a Designated Player, announcing 29-year-old English center back Liam Ridgewell as the club's latest signing. Ridgewell's contract with West Bromwich Albion expired in May.
Ridgewell becomes Portland's third Designated Player, joining playmaker Diego Valeri and forward Fanendo Adi (whose Designated Player option was picked up earlier this week), and is the third defender in league history to be a Designated Player, joining much-maligned Mexican international Rafa Marquez (New York Red Bulls 2010-12) and LA Galaxy star Omar Gonzalez, who signed a contract extension in August 2013 that made him a DP.
“Liam is still in his prime at only 29 years old, and he's been playing game in and out in the English Premier League versus many of the top attacking players in the world," Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said in a club statement. "This pedigree, along with his leadership qualities and technical ability as a left-sided central defender, makes him an ideal choice to enhance our back line for the second half of the season and beyond."
- WATCH: Liam Ridgewell highlights
Ridgewell, who will turn 30 in July, has played more than 250 games in the EPL over 11 seasons with Aston Villa, Birmingham City and West Brom. He made 33 appearances during the 2013-14 season, logging 90 minutes in 30 of those 33 while helping the Baggies remain in the Premier League for a fifth consecutive season.
"After attending a recent match at Providence Park, Liam was incredibly taken by the fans and atmosphere generated here in Portland and, despite receiving several attractive offers to stay in the Premiership, chose the Timbers due to his belief in the vision and football philosophy of the organization," Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson said in the club's statement. "He is keenly committed to helping this club exceed its already lofty goals this season and for seasons to come.”
Ridgewell, who was capped for England at the U-21 level, helped Birmingham City to the 2011 Football League Cup.
He will be eligible to make his Timbers and MLS debut upon receipt of his P-1 work visa. Portland is in action on Friday night, hosting Sporting Kansas City, and then plays at the LA Galaxy in a nationally televised game on July 4.