CARSON, Calif. – After winning Goalkeeper of the Year last season, Donovan Ricketts was in no rush to get back onto the pitch early into the 2011 campaign.
While playing in a friendly against Club Tijuana in San Diego last month, the LA Galaxy netminder chased after a loose ball near the top of the penalty area. He hit the ground, needed help to get off the field and limped gingerly back to the team bench.
And just as slowly as he was to rejoin his teammates then, Ricketts was not in a hurry to return to the Galaxy lineup.
“I was in no rush,” Ricketts said after making his season debut this past Saturday. “Josh [Saunders] is a good goalkeeper. He did his thing and I took my time, and I’m back.”
Ricketts earned the start in his first game back with the Galaxy and helped the club to a 1-0 shutout of Philadelphia. The big Jamaican, who injured his hamstring against Tijuana, did not dress in any of LA’s first three games.
[inline_node:318717]While Saunders came up with a shutout in the season opener and helped the Galaxy pick up four points in his three starts, coach Bruce Arena said the difference in how the team fared with Ricketts as well as defender Omar Gonzalez in the lineup for the first time was noticeable.
“We like to think we have a deep team, but it’s hard to replace your top players,” Arena said. “We’ve been without some of them for a number of games and it hasn’t been easy. You see a little bit of a difference with Donovan and Omar in there.”
Having missed the final days of the preseason as well as most of the club’s training sessions before the week leading up to the Union match, Ricketts may have needed some time readjust to his teammates. Instead, though, he said he felt as if he had not missed a minute.
“I’ve been playing for years, so it’s OK,” Ricketts said. “Once I get back on, I just get right back in the groove.”
While last weekend's match will go down as a shutout for Ricketts – the 21st of his MLS career – he said his teammates made it easy for him.
“We played pretty solid,” said Ricketts, who did not have to make a save on the night. "As you see, I didn’t have much to do. They didn’t let a ball go through. I like nights like [that].”
Still, Ricketts said he had to stay engaged somehow.
“I just tried to talk to the back four, yell at the midfield just to keep in touch with the game so I don’t fall asleep,” he said.
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