Cup loss still lingers for Ricketts

Broken hand sidelined Galaxy goalkeeper during title game

Los Angeles Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts had a look of
disappointment when he was asked to discuss the team's 2009 season. But
his facial expression quickly changed to something reflecting a little
more discomfort when it came to his own personal recollections.

It was early during the second half of last November's MLS Cup final
against Real Salt Lake when Ricketts fractured his right hand in a
collision with teammate Omar Gonzalez and Real Salt Lake's Robbie
Findley. Ricketts played another 18 minutes before he was replaced by
backup goalkeeper Josh Saunders.

Memories of that night still don't sit well with him.

"My mother always said things happen for a reason," he said. "I'm still
trying to find that reason."

The hand hasn't healed completely, but he is practicing without any
problems and said he will be 100 percent by the time the regular season
opens in late March. He also is hopeful the club can have another
successful season -- it made the playoffs for the first time in five
years in 2009 -- and is confident he can sustain his high level of play,
not that coaches and teammates have come to expect anything less.

Ricketts, a 6-foot-4, 200-pounder who turns 33 in July, brought
much-needed stability to a position that had been inconsistent for some
time.

"I thought he'd be a very good goalkeeper in this league," Galaxy head
coach/general manager Bruce Arena said. "He's better than I thought."

Ricketts, who signed with the Galaxy in December of 2008 after stints
with Bolton and Bradford City in England and Village United in his home
country of Jamaica, started 26 games, had a 1.03 goals-against average
and set a Galaxy season record with nine shutouts.

Teammates sensed early on Ricketts was someone special.

"He's just a massive presence in front of the net," said midfielder
Eddie Lewis, who faced Ricketts when they were opposite sides of
U.S.-Jamaica matchups. "He covers a lot of ground and it's hard to get
the ball by him.

"I don't know how many games he saved for us."

Said defender Todd Dunivant: "I don't think too many people had heard of
him, and it's difficult for a foreigner coming into this league,
especially a goalkeeper making a big impact like he did. He really
carried us in a lot of games and made the big saves when we needed
them."

Even Arena, who never has been one to be easily impressed, was surprised
at Ricketts' effectiveness.

"I expected him to be very good, but I'm not quite sure as he good as he
panned out to be," Arena said. "He's a great shot blocker, he's
obviously good in the air and he has excellent distribution.

"Now as he gets more confidence with the team and the league I think he
can get even better."

The soft-spoken Ricketts said he's gotten over the disappointment of
last year's MLS Cup Final and is confident the Galaxy can fare even
better in 2010. He cited the lack of roster turnover -- only five
players are not returning from 2009 -- and a defense that figures to be
solid again. It was anchored, of course, by Ricketts, who played a major
role in the Galaxy slicing their goals-against from a league-high 62 in
2008 to just 31 in 2009.

He's also happy he made the move to Los Angeles.

"I was hoping to play in the States for some time, and I was very happy
when they showed interest in me," he said.

Ricketts admitted he would be even happier if the club takes the next
step and wins an MLS title.

"I'm hopeful we can get back to MLS Cup," he said. "We have very good
players and we play well together. We keep doing the things we did last
season, I think we can get there again.

"It was very disappointing to come up short in the final. Hopefully
we'll get another chance."