Donovan Ricketts D.C. United May 3 2014
Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Timbers

Getting to Know: Donovan Ricketts

Editors note: This feature on Donovan Ricketts is from the Timbers latest edition of Green & White Magazine, the club's offical program available only on match days at Providence Park. Get your hands on this edition at the next home match Sunday vs. LA Galaxy at 11:30 a.m. (PT).

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Getting to Know: Donovan Ricketts

A Jamaica international who reached the century mark in appearances for the national team last year, Donovan Ricketts joined the Timbers in August 2012 following a trade with the Montreal Impact and quickly set a course toward reestablishing himself as a marquee goalkeeper in MLS. The athletic, 6-foot-4 shot-stopper impressed in his first full season in a Timbers uniform in 2013, earning the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Award for the second time in his MLS career (2010, 2013), while helping lead Portland to its first appearance in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Hitting the Century Mark
Since earning a spot on the Jamaica National Team roster as a 21-year-old in 1998 to competing in 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying last year, Ricketts registered his 100th career international appearance for Jamaica on Sept. 6, 2013, in a scoreless draw against Panama at Estadio Rommel Fernández in Panama City. “It’s a special feeling because not everybody gets to represent their country and to represent your country 100 times is a special feeling because not a lot of people get to fall into that category. It’s an honor.”

Soaking up the FIFA World Cup
Before even earning his first international cap, Ricketts was named to Jamaica’s roster for the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France. The third-string goalkeeper on the roster, Ricketts went into the tournament knowing there was a very small likelihood of playing in a match, but that didn’t lessen the experience one bit. “It was a good feeling because there was no pressure on me. I knew I wasn’t going to play so I was just soaking in the atmosphere. To be in a World Cup, when you’re young, you see it on TV and then you get to be there, be a part of it. It’s a really, really special feeling.”

Calm Before the Storm
If you watch Ricketts when he takes to his goal box right before kickoff, you’ll notice the same routine each time, involving his back turned to the field and his arms outstretched. “I’m praying. You ask the Lord to take you through the game, guide you from injuries, but you never ask to win because that’s left up to fate and destiny. So I just ask for protection and guidance. First, I started kneeling, but then I did it with my arms outstretched and I just kept that going.”

Ricketts Fact
The goalkeeper comes from a huge family, counting 13 brothers and seven sisters, many of whom are also athletes in their own right. Two of his older brothers, Daniel and Devon Ricketts, also made appearances for the Jamaica National Team. His father played soccer at the club level as a teenager, but Donovan is the only goalkeeper of the bunch.

Developing Abroad
Before he first signed with MLS and the LA Galaxy in 2009, Ricketts spent several seasons in England playing for Bradford City in the northern part of the country. The environment was completely different from what he had experienced in Jamaica and it was one that helped set him on a good path as a professional. “It helped a lot. Coming from Jamaica, we’re laid back and it’s like semi-professional or even amateur so-to-speak. Going into a professional environment, it was different because they emphasize being on time and every training session is like a game. So in Jamaica you can go through practice as just practice, but there it’s like an audition for the real thing. It taught me that everything begins with practice, everything begins with being on time and discipline.”