BEAVERTON, Ore. – Donovan Ricketts is no stranger to big games.
The Portland Timbers goalkeeper, a Jamaican international and member of last year's MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy squad, has made a career of showing up when it matters most. But he's never played in what is arguably North America's best soccer rivalry, the Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders.
That changes Saturday when the Sounders come to the Rose City for a nationally televised game at JELD-WEN Field (3:30 pm ET, NBC, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
"Every derby game is special," Rickett told MLSsoccer.com. "I've played in derby games in England and back in LA, and this is just another one. And I know the fans are up for this one. They want this one. And it's been an up-and-down season so far, so if we can give them something to celebrate we're going to do it."
In addition to being in the nets for the Galaxy's three playoff games in 2010, Ricketts is a two-time MLS All-Star and was a member of Jamaica's 1998 World Cup squad, also featuring in his home country's qualifying bids in 2002, 2006 and 2010. With so much on the line, how does the big 'keeper maintain his wits and perform at the highest level?
"You try not to let the pressure of the occasion get to you and you try not to think too much about it," Ricketts said. "You just keep in the back of your mind that this is a big game, and we need a win. So we have to focus going into this one and try to win it for the fans."
Former Jamaican international Robbie Earle, the Timbers TV analyst who briefly crossed paths with Ricketts with the Reggae Boyz in 1998, said Ricketts has all the tools to be a big-game performer. And it has nothing to do with his 6-foot-4 frame or athleticism.
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"As much about his ability, and I say he's got good size, he's an impressive looking athlete, I think it's more about his mentality and his state of mind," Earl said. "He's very calm, he's quite a quiet guy, he wasn't a bawler and shouter. He trains hard, knows what he wants, he's driven and focused."
Ricketts said it didn't take a history lesson in the storied history of the historic Timbers-Sounders Cascadia Cup rivalry to know how important the game is. When he first arrived in Portland in early August after being traded from Montreal, Ricketts said he was well aware of the club's famed supporters group, the Timbers Army.
"It's very important to the city, very important to the club, and we need a win," Ricketts said. "It's a cup within a cup. If we can get some silverware, it will be very special and will be good to say we won something this year. I think it's very important."
A win would give the Timbers the inside track to winning the Cascadia Cup, the fan-created, three-team derby among MLS' Pacific Northwest teams. And there's the business of Ricketts bouncing back after his last game, a 3-0 loss to Colorado last Wednesday.
"We just put that game behind us and think about the positives we have achieved so far and come back and win," Ricketts said. "It's back at home, back at the office, so hopefully we perform."
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.