The Oregonian's Jamie Goldberg is reporting that Portland Timbers defender Liam Ridgewell is heading back across the pond for a two month loan to English Championship side Wigan Athletic. The keystone to the Timbers' defense in 2014, Ridgewell is expected to return to Portland in late February, before the start of the Simple Invitational.
For the Timbers, the move will likely net a moderate loan fee, potentially giving the team even more flexibility in their spending with a potential infusion of allocation money going into the season (assuming that MLS handles loan fees like it does transfer fees).
Ridgewell, meanwhile, gets to extend his offseason stay in England with his family while getting back to fitness for the 2015 season.
Playing for a Wigan team currently second from the bottom of the Championship table, Ridgewell will almost certainly get playing time as the Latics try to get out of the relegation zone and avoid the drop to the third tier of English football only three years after playing in the Premiership.
Wigan has been in the news in recent months for the hiring of Malky Mackay, whose previous tenure at Cardiff City was marred by the revelation of a number of racist and anti-semetic tweets sent by him. Wigan's chairman, Dave Whelan, only dug the hole deeper in his defense of Malkay late last year with a series of poorly though out remarks of his own that landed him a six week ban from "football-related activities" from the English Football Association.
At first glance this looks like a silly move for the Timbers, sending away one of their starting centerbacks before the season starts; however, with Nat Borchers set to partner Ridgewell in the middle, the Timbers defensive pairing should not need much time to gel, given their veteran status.
With Borchers the only change from the group that finished the season together last year, barring the emergence of new fullback Jeanderson as a viable starter, the Timbers should be able to pull together quickly during the final three weeks of preseason that Ridgwell will reportedly be on hand for.
There are some risks for the Timbers, or course. There is always the possibility that Ridgewell could pick up an injury, but that risk is there in preseason training as well; in the last four years Troy Perkins, Bright Dike, and Brent Richards, among others, have all gone down with injuries in the preseason. It will be up to Wigan's trainers to ensure that Ridgewell is fit before he takes the field.