Another round of MLS Awards were released on Wednesday. Both awards being given to players from the Portland Timbers. Donovan Ricketts won the Goalkeeper of the Year award, and midfielder Diego Valeri won the Newcomer of the Year award. Both players were also part of the MLS Best XI which was announced on Tuesday.
Obviously, it is Valeri‘s first year with Portland (Newcomer of the Year), but it was also Ricketts first full year as a Timber. Both players were brought in under new head coach Caleb Porter, where they set about flipping the Timbers from a team with a -22 goal differential in 2012 to +21 in 2013. Those numbers can be directly linked to the play of these two players.
Ricketts posted 92 saves and 14 shutouts while also having the second lowest goals-against average in the league at 0.97 per game. At the age of 36, the Jamaican national teamer has hardly slowed down. His efforts stopped would-be goals on multiple occasions, including his save(s) that is(are) in the running for Save of the Year.
This is Ricketts’ second time winning the award, the first being back in 2010, when the honors were given to him while playing for the LA Galaxy. He was shipped out in 2011 for the next young talent. Now that he’s proven himself as one of the best goalies in a league, it just shows that age is only a number.
The Argentinian Valeri, came to the MLS on loan from Argentina’s Club Atlético Lanús, but now has signed a deal to stay with the Timbers. The 26-year-old displayed a wonderful ability to pass the ball to player in scoring position, and also showed off his offensive firepower as well. He strung together 10 goals and 13 assists during the regular season, and added another goal in the postseason. One of his goals is contending for Goal of the Year.
Ricketts and Valeri were great to watch all year. Every time the Timbers were on TV, I knew to watch either of these guys, especially Valeri who was the maestro the MLS has been looking for. He knew how to create scoring chances and keep the offensive possession intact.
Although Ricketts is doing extremely well at his age now, it’s a known fact that his body will not hold up forever. That’s a disappointment. But the good news is Valeri is in his prime with multiple years still playing in the MLS. Look out for him over the next few seasons as I predict he remains one of the best midfielders playing in America.