BEAVERTON, Ore. — The Portland Timbers will not have central defender Liam Ridgewell for Sunday’s match at Sporting Kansas City (2 pm ET on FOX and MLS LIVE in Canada), whether he's healthy or not.
Ridgewell, who hasn't trained all week but is "progressing" from a calf injury, according to Timbers head coach Caleb Porter, will not be allowed to play even if he's fit after he sat out Thursday’s AT&T MLS All-Star Game loss to Arsenal. Under a new rule implemented by league owners last December, players selected to play in the All-Star Game and miss the match have to sit out their club team's following league match.
Citing the fact that Ridgewell also missed Portland’s match prior to the All-Star Game because of the injury, Porter insisted that the defender's All-Star absence was justified.
“He’s legitimately injured,” Porter said. “He has been legitimately injured. He showed that by not playing the last league game [vs. LA Galaxy on July 23] and he’s shown that by not being in training this week.”
Porter said the Timbers – himself, owner Merritt Paulson and general manager Gavin Wilkinson – discussed the situation with the league, but that the rule will stand for 2016.
Ridgewell has not trained full with the Timbers since he felt some calf tightness following their July 17 win over Seattle, missing Portland's 2-1 loss to the Galaxy last week and the MLS All-Stars' 2-1 defeat to Arsenal on Thursday.
“There’s no guarantee he would be healthy for Kansas City anyways, but there’s a good chance he would be because we have another two or three days and he’s progressing," Porter said. "All along our return to play [estimation] was going to be right up to that game time with Kansas City."
A look at the Timbers' form — and the fact that Nat Borchers is out for the season — make it clear why Porter is anxious to get Ridgewell back in the middle of his defense.
Ridgewell has missed nine games so far this season. The Timbers are 1-4-4 in those matches with one shutout and 16 goals against. In the 13 matches with Ridgewell, the Timbers are 6-3-4 with two shutouts and 17 goals against.
The Timbers do plan to reinforce their back line by signing two players before the window closes on Aug. 3. Indications — among them a report from ESPN — are that longtime Newcastle United center back Steven Taylor will be joining the Timbers.
Porter on Thursday said additions could be announced on Monday and will prioritize the back line, with an eye toward adding both a player to provide short-term help with the loss of Borchers and for adding longer-term depth.