Cup loss still lingers for Ricketts

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."