Timbers Sign Adi, Ridgewell to DP Contracts

Portland now with 3 DP contracts after this week’s signings
by Ray Marcham   |   Friday, June 27, 2014

Green Logs - a column on the Portland Timbers & the Portland soccer scene

The end results of Gavin Wilkinson’s spring European travels have resulted in two new Designated Players for the Portland Timbers, and to say they are different is an understatement.

One, Fanendo Adi, earned his DP contract after scoring 4 times and adding 2 assists since arriving in Portland on loan from FC Copenhagen in mid-May. He’s also helped solidify a forward line that had been floundering at times this season and helped the Portland midfield by creating space in front of the goal, playing the target role that Ryan Johnson often excelled at in 2013.

The other, Liam Ridgewell, comes to Portland after being released in May by West Bromwich Albion after an up-and-down tenure at The Hawthorns that lasted over 2 seasons. The former England U-21 player, just the 3rd MLS defender ever given a DP contract, also played at Aston Villa and Birmingham City during his Premier League career.

Adi and Ridgewell join Diego Valeri as the DPs for the Timbers. Valeri has been a DP since arriving from Lanus before the 2013 season.

There were a few questions about Adi when he arrived in Portland. The 23-year-old Nigerian was a bit of an unknown, having only played 9 league matches for Copenhagen, along with 3 appearances in the UEFA Champions League. That he was on loan for a few months also meant he had to show his skills quickly.

And he did. In his first Timbers match on May 17, he came onto the pitch in the 83rd minute, then assisted on Gastón Fernández’ 85th minute goal to help Portland snag a 3-3 home draw with Columbus. Eleven days later, he scored twice as the Timbers won at Chivas USA. He also got 2 goals in Portland’s stunning 3-1 win at Real Salt Lake on June 7.

It then became just a matter of time before the Timbers would trigger the clause in their loan agreement with Copenhagen to allow them to purchase Adi’s contract. On Monday, Portland did exactly that, exercising the purchase option with the Danish club and rewarding Adi with a DP contract.

Adi will likely see more starts, rotating with Fernández, Maxi Urruti and Darlington Nagbe on the Portland front line. His experience in club international tournaments such as the Europa League and the UEFA Champions League could also be a major plus when the Timbers start their CONCACAF Champions League campaign later this summer.

While Adi was earning his Designated Player contract by playing, rumors were flying that Ridgewell was talking with the Timbers about a deal. Reported sightings of the 29-year-old center back had popped up on Twitter since early June, but there was also an assumption that Ridgewell may have been courting offers from other English clubs, as well.

But there were questions about Ridgewell at the end of the season. He missed WBA’s final 4 matches after he suffered an MCL injury near the end of the Baggies’ 3-1 loss at Manchester City in April 21. The City match also turned out to be his last with West Brom, as he was one of 5 players released at the end of the season.

There had been some questions about Ridgewell’s pre-injury form with WBA, with Mel saying that a lack of competition for his starting spot may have hurt Ridgewell. But Mel had also said Ridgewell had played well before the injury, as he was “performing at a good level”. He played 33 matches for WBA in 2013-14 before the knee injury.

Outside of a short loan at Bournemouth, Ridgewell has spent his entire professional career in the West Midlands. The London native came up through West Ham’s academy system, but moved to Aston Villa in 2001. He made his debut with Villa’s first team in 2003, when he was just 18. In 2007, he went across town to Birmingham City to be the first player transferred between Villa & City in 23 years. He was a key part of the Blues for over 4 seasons, including their 2011 Carling Cup championship side. For a time, he was also City’s captain.

He went to WBA early in 2012, after Birmingham had been relegated to the Championship. He stayed with the Baggies until his contract expired in May and his option was not picked up by WBA.

Ridgewell scored 20 goals in his 3 West Midlands stops and has played center back (his natural position) and left back. He’s known as a physical defender who plays well away from the ball. However, he was the focus of a lot of criticism among WBA supporters last season, leading to manager Pepe Mel defending him after a large amount of abuse on Facebook directed at Ridgewell following his knee injury.

But Ridgewell has also been on the wrong side of the British tabloids. The most infamous was in late 2012 when he had to apologize following the publication of a photo of him in a bathroom using £20 notes in, well, not for their intended use. His cancelled wedding in 2011 also sparked some tabloid interest.

There are special pressures to being a Designated Player in MLS, and now Adi and Ridgewell will experience that pressure. If Adi can keep playing at a high level, and Ridgewell shows that his knee is fine and meshes into the back 4 quickly, the Timbers may end up thinking they got a couple of steals.

And Wilkinson may be spending more time in Europe, looking for another diamond in the rough.

NEXT UP: June 27 – Portland Timbers vs. Sporting Kansas City, Providence Park, Portland, Ore. 11:00 p.m. EST, KPTV-12 (Oregon/SW Washington), MLS Live.

Ray MARCHAM

Nationality:
USA
College:
Washington State
Club Domestic:
Portland Timbers
Club Foreign:
Arsenal
Cascadia native and a fan for as long as he can remember, Ray was brought up on the old NASL. Learned to love MLS. Wanted to play like Clive Charles. Then like Tony Adams. Only dreams, of course.
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