Portland and Montreal swapped Troy Perkins and Donovan Ricketts on Tuesday, pairing two starting goalkeepers who, despite differing styles and backgrounds, share some surprising similarities both this season and in their careers as a whole.
Both men are past winners of the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award whose subsequent campaigns featured more misfortune than glory. The 31-year-old Perkins picked up that honor back in 2006 as he rose from unknown reserve to star shot-stopper with D.C. United, unseating starting ‘keeper Nick Rimando to anchor a strong backline during a period of sustained success for the Black-and-Red.
SAVE: Perkins denies Shea
With his relentless work ethic and calm, commanding presence in the penalty box, Perkins helped United win back-to-back Supporters’ Shields in ’06 and ’07. With his stock soaring amid growing attention from the US national team staff, he brokered an offseason move to Norwegian club Vålerenga, where he earned the starting spot and generally excelled in league and some UEFA Cup action.
Back in D.C., United struggled to fill his shoes and the club’s rebuilding, combined with Perkins’ desire to take his young family back to the US, led to a surprising homecoming in 2010. United sent a substantial packet of assets to the Philadelphia Union in exchange for the expansion club’s spot atop the MLS allocation order, allowing the Ohio native to return to RFK Stadium.
But the second time around wasn’t so charming, as Perkins lost the No. 1 role to Homegrown upstart Bill Hamid during the worst season in United’s history. He was eventually shipped out to Portland, where he rebuilt his confidence with some excellent netminding in 2011 but could not prevent the Timbers’ nasty sophomore slump this year.
A veteran of the English leagues and established starter for the Jamaican national team when signed by the LA Galaxy ahead of the 2009 season, the imposing Ricketts arrived in MLS with a much greater reputation than Perkins.
The veteran immediately proved his value by helping LA win top spot in the Western Conference and reach the MLS Cup final, where the Galaxy were narrowly denied a championship by Real Salt Lake’s Cinderella act. Ricketts could only watch, sidelined with an injured right arm picked up earlier in the match, as the favorites lost to RSL in a penalty-kick shootout.
SAVE: Ricketts with two huge saves
Ricketts garnered Goalkeeper of the Year plaudits the following season as a dominating LA side coasted to the Supporters’ Shield. But last year, another injury opened the door for understudy Josh Saunders to shine. The Galaxy steamrolled to another Shield and finally won the MLS Cup they coveted with Ricketts, 35, relegated to bench duty.
Much like Perkins’ move to the Timbers, a trade to expansion newcomers Montreal seemed like the perfect place for Ricketts to start his career anew. But both have struggled to maintain a consistently high level of play this season, and now both their clubs, each seeking inspiration for the stretch run, have decided that a fresh face is worth gambling on.