Coming out of 2012, the 2013 goalkeeper position wasn’t supposed to be an especially interesting one. Although he didn’t exactly overwhelm in 2012, Donovan Ricketts looked to be the prohibitive favorite for the starting job.
Then, on December 12, apparently tired of being hung out to dry with regularity in Toronto, Milos Kocic was thrown into a deal between the Timbers and the Reds in exchange for youngster Joe Bendik.
While bringing in a keeper that allowed 47 goals in 27 appearances during the past season isn’t the traditional method of creating a goalkeeping controversy, a combination of Kocic’s partial innocence in Toronto’s defensive ineptitude and Ricketts’s modest effectiveness raised reasonable questions about whether the Jamaican would be between the posts on March 3rd.
Add to that the fact that Jake Gleeson appears to be simultaneously healthy and not in New Zealand for the first time in most of a year, and many at the start of camp handicapped Ricketts an only modest favorite to be the Timbers 2013 first choice goalkeeper.
The first three weeks of training have done little to disprove that prediction. Through three preseason games, both Ricketts and Kocic have been underwhelmingly passable. Ricketts’s best performance – as has become a habit for Timbers who moonlight for their national team – has been with Jamaica where he was semi-heroic in preserving the draw at Azteca. Jake Gleeson hasn’t had much of a chance to feature in a game situation, save for one largely dandelion-picking half against Seattle’s trialists on Tuesday morning.
Despite the mini offseason turmoil, then, Portland’s immediate goalkeeping future looks likely unchanged: hardly confidence-inspiring, but no cause for great despair. An otherwise good team can have some short-term success with the sort of average goalkeeping we can expect from Ricketts or Kocic.
The long-term future is cause for greater concern, however. Ricketts is thirty-five and not getting any better. While both Kocic and Gleeson have potential, neither appears to be either a can’t-miss prospect or able to step in immediately and take the helm of a playoff-caliber team.
The Timbers also added former Akron keeper David Meves in the Supplemental Draft. While reports of Meves have been solid thus far, it’s hard to imagine the Timbers carrying him as a fourth goalkeeper. Don’t be surprised, however, if he surfaces in the lower divisions next year, and the Timbers keep his rights and a watchful eye cast in his direction.
2013 is a particularly important season for Jake Gleeson, as his lost 2012 campaign has warmed his seat a little bit. If Jake doesn’t show signs of development in 2013, he can’t be considered a viable candidate for the goalkeeping job in the short or medium term. With the current state of the Timbers’ goalkeeping situation, if you’re not such a candidate, you’re probably also not on the roster.
Simply put, considering Ricketts’s age and diminution in value over the past two seasons, a regime change in goal seems to be on the horizon, if perhaps not yet imminent. If neither Kocic nor Gleeson steps up, the Timbers could suffer through a painful interregnum. And nobody likes a painful interregnum.
Projected 2013 Depth Chart
1. Donovan Ricketts
2. Milos Kocic
3. Jake Gleeson
Onward, Rose City!