With the preseason about to kick off, we are taking a look at the Portland Timbers position by position. Up first are the team's backstop: the goalkeepers.
The Portland Timbers find themselves in the enviable position of returning the Major League Soccer Goalkeeper of the Year in Donovan Ricketts, lending the position a stability that most teams will envy. The players behind Ricketts on the depth chart, however, there are certainly questions about.
Donovan Ricketts, Andrew Weber, Jake Gleeson
Departures: Milos Kocic
Kocic was a bargain when he arrived from Toronto FC; a starting caliber keeper making, literally, as little as he possibly could. With a family and a fair number of starts under his belt with Toronto, however, Kocic was always going to be looking for more money when his contract was up. Unfortunately for Kocic, the Timbers had to prioritize cap space. The Timbers do still hold Kocic's rights, but as of right now there is no word on where he will end up playing next season.
Arrivals: Andrew Weber
A career-long back backup keeper at the MLS level, Amazing Race contestant Andrew Weber was brought in to be the Timbers' new ultra-cheap backup keeper. Weber is two years older than Kocic, who he replaces on the roster, and has 35 less MLS starts, so it looks likely that the team has brought him in more as a reliable placeholder than as a true potential replacement for Donovan Ricketts. That said, a player does have to have some chops to stick around the professional game for a decade and Weber looks like he will be able to step in when needed.
Player to Watch: Jake Gleeson
The only MLS appearances that Gleeson has made, four starts, came all the way back in 2011 as the Timbers first arrived in the league. Since then, Gleeson has suffered through a number of injuries that have limited his appearances for the reserves as well as his bench appearances for the first team. As such it was a surprise to many when Gleeson's contract was extended rather than bringing on board 2013 draft pick David Meves, who has been waiting in the wings for the Timbers all year.
This season will be a make or break one for Gleeson. Donovan Ricketts is not getting any younger and with the CONCACAF Champions League sure to stretch the club thin at the end of the season the opportunities will be there for him to step in and show off the growth as a player that just has not been readily apparent in his reserve team play. If Gleeson can't move his way up to the 2nd spot on the depth chart this year, it should be his last with the club.
Predicted Starter: Donovan Ricketts
When you are the defending Goalkeeper of the Year, your starting spot is pretty secure. Ricketts stood on his head time and time again for the Timbers last year and, although his Save of the Week efforts were mostly concentrated in the first half of the season, he kept up his high level of play throughout the season, finishing with fourteen shutouts and a GAA of 0.97. There is little to indicate that Ricketts will not be able to continue his high level of play for the Timbers in 2014.
Ricketts' 2013 numbers will not be easy to match for the big Jamaican, but with a recently reinforced defensive corps in front of him they are far from unattainable. Assuming that new acquisition Norberto Paparatto fits in like Caleb Porter hopes that he will, Ricketts could potentially better last year's performance.
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