Recently-signed English defender Liam Ridgewell made his Portland Timbers debut this past Friday night and helped the team to a much-needed 2-1 victory over Colorado Rapids. Ridgewell's impact was noticeable straight from the opening whistle. "Obviously you saw what class he brings and how he's going to help us moving forward," commented Jack Jewsbury after the match.
But just how, exactly, is Ridgewell going to help the team moving forward? Well, one of the ways will most certainly be through communication.
"[His communication] was huge," said Will Johnson. "He gives people confidence just by his presence. When he walks out on the field it's a big lift for everybody."
Even the most novice of supporters could likely see Ridgewell communicating—literally. The 6'2" former West Brom and Aston Villa man was constantly pointing, motioning, and waving his arms as he directed the players around him Friday night; pointing out players to mark and when to step the offside line up.
But in addition to the obvious communication he provides, Ridgewell's overall quality was also on display. "I thought he did a lot of little things to help us," said head coach Caleb Porter. "For me the play that summed up his performance was when [Colorado's] was driving late in the game at the top of the box and [Ridgewell] just held his position and just cut the shot out. It's those little plays that we need our defenders to make to win games."
Ridgewell also showed skill with his distribution out of the back. "I thought his passing was awesome," said Johnson. "The way he split the line, it's just awesome to have a guy back there who can play those through-balls."
It's obviously too early yet to anoint him a savior, but Ridgewell appears to be a guy who not only plays at a high level, but can help elevate the play of the entire back line. "We know he's a good player, anybody could tell you he's a good player," Johnson said. "But great players make the other three guys on the back line better as well, and that's what he did tonight."
The Timbers haven't always had the most vocal center backs, but Ridgewell appears to be changing that. "It helps guys positioning," said Jewsbury. "He's a guy from day one that's had a voice and speaks a lot. I think that's key, especially from his position where you can see everything."
Communication is nothing new to Ridgewell, though. He said he's done it all his career, and even joked that some teammates may get annoyed with him. "If I'm not speaking, I'm not doing my job."