Veteran Ricketts not shocked by move from Galaxy to Impact

The Canadian Press

2/22/2012 5:54:37 PM

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Moving from California to frozen Montreal was just one of the adjustments Jamaican international goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts had to make when he was traded to the Impact in November.

He was also moving from the Major League Soccer champion Los Angeles Galaxy to an expansion team that is sure to have its ups and downs in its inaugural season in North America's top league.

But Ricketts said the climate was more of a shock than playing on a team whose roster does not include international stars like David Beckham.

"I thought it was going to be cold, but it's very, very cold," the 34-year-old said Wednesday with a big laugh. "But it's been good so far. We train indoors there, so we don't really feel the cold."

Happily for the 34-year-old Ricketts, the Impact have spent only a few days training in Montreal since camp opened in mid-January.

They have finished stints in Mexico and California and now are at Walt Disney World to take part in the pre-season Disney Pro Soccer Classic with five other MLS clubs, including Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps, plus two other teams.

Montreal opens the tournament Friday night against Vancouver, while Toronto plays Saturday against USL club Orlando City.

Now the Impact are training in muggy heat on a palm-lined pitch at the sprawling ESPN Wild World of Sports complex next to the stadium where the Atlanta Braves are holding spring training.

The personnel assembled thus far by coach Jesse Marsch and his staff through the expansion draft and other avenues are mostly familiar to Ricketts, who entered MLS with the Galaxy in 2009.

"It's not much of a big difference because the players on this team are experienced pros," he said. "It's not like it's all new players to the league.

"The coaches have been in the league too. It's an expansion team in terms of the franchise being new, but the players have been around for a while. So it's not that hard as yet."

Ricketts is one of the team's top acquisitions thus far, along with midfielders Davy Arnaud and Canadian international Patrice Bernier and perhaps currently injured Colombian defender Nelson Rivas.

Marsch said it all came down to timing.

Ricketts was MLS goalkeeper of the year in 2010 and kept it going through June of the 2011 season before breaking a forearm. The younger Josh Saunders did just as well in his absence and helped the team to the MLS Cup.

That made Ricketts expendable, and Montreal got him on Nov. 28 for allocation money.

"It's a good team," he said of the Impact. "It needs work. We have the right pieces, but we need time to gel and play as a team."

Also in camp is defender Shavar Thomas, who has served as captain of the Jamaican national team with Ricketts as an assistant captain.

"It's always good to have a fellow countryman," Ricketts said. "When we speak, no one understands us."

Goalkeeper is the one position that is locked up heading into the season.

Only three are in camp, as Marsch opted to keep two who played last season in Montreal: Evan Bush and Canadian veteran Greg Sutton. He said it gives Montreal one of the league's best goalkeeping groups.

They will likely need it.

Thus far, most of the team's best assets play on defence and in midfield, with a large cast battling for forward spots. On paper, they appear to be a team that can stop opponents, but may have trouble scoring.

"When I first came to the league in 2009 the Galaxy was founded on defence," said Ricketts. "If you don't have a solid defence you can't build.

"You keep clean sheets and if you can nick a goal, you nick a goal. I don't think we're defensive-oriented, we just have good defensive people in place."

At six foot two, Bush looks up to six-foot-five Ricketts and six-foot-six Sutton. But he is only 25, nine years younger than his rivals for the starting job, although it's clear Ricketts will be No. 1.

"Donovan will be first guy and we'll see what happens from there," said Bush, who has been rooming with Ricketts in camp. "He's proven himself in the league so you can't really take that away from him.

"Down the road, we'll see. I'm still a young guy. In one aspect it's good to develop and also to push myself every day in case something ever happens with Donovan or Greg."

Sutton played for Montreal from 2001 to 2006 before jumping to MLS with Toronto. He moved to the Red Bulls in 2010, but when New York signed German keeper Frank Rost last season, they loaned Sutton to the Impact.

Sutton stayed on after having his New York contract reworked.

Marsch got his first look in camp at forward Mike Fucito and midfielder Lamar Neagle since they were acquired from Seattle for striker Eddie Johnson, who Montreal claimed through the allocation process.

Also seeing his first camp action was Lucas Acosta, a 25-year-old Argentine midfielder who was spotted playing in Ecuador.

Acosta is in camp on a tryout along with former Italian international defender Matteo Ferrari and Karl Ouimette of Repentigny, Que., a defender from the Impact's academy.

Marsch said the team and Ferrari will look each other over in camp before both sides decide whether to sign a contract.

The Impact announced that midfielder Simon Gatti, who played six seasons in Montreal, has retired and will coach the club's under-14 team. Gatti and longtime Impact defender Nevio Pizzolitto were cut this week after tryouts.