To the surprise of many, Orlando City elected to use their number one spot in Wednesday's Expansion Draft to secure the services of 37-year-old goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts from the Portland Timbers.
While many expected Adrian Heath to find a short-term fix as Tally Hall recovered from an ACL injury he suffered last season with the Houston Dynamo, the Lions manager said he wanted much more than to simply provide cover.
"Obviously he's hugely experienced," said Heath. "More importantly, he's been absolutely fabulous in this league. Tally has an injury and we want to give him every bit of time to get himself fit and ready. We thought (Ricketts) was the best available goalkeeper out there and we think he's going to be a good fit for us, moving forward."
If the goal of the Expansion Draft was to bring in established players with MLS experience, then Heath certainly found that and more with the Jamaican shot stopper. Ricketts was brought into the league in 2009 by L.A Galaxy and has been among the best goalkeepers in the league ever since.
The two-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year recipient has accumulated over 150 appearances in the league and is the most capped goalkeeper in his country's history. He has also been a part of two Supporters' Shield winning campaigns and an MLS Cup.
Ricketts was also one of the more expensive ‘keepers available, but bringing in the big Jamaican was a smart and calculated decision. Heath's choice to select the MLS veteran has provided significant benefits that will put Orlando City in a great position going into the 2015 season.
By having a reliable player of Ricketts' quality while Hall is absent early in the season, Orlando City will be close to full strength right out of the gate and less likely to drop unnecessary points. The last thing the Lions need is to be playing catch up all year long, and hopefully the number one draft pick will help avoid that.
Besides the obvious idea that competition pushes you to be better, Tally Hall will also benefit from having such a strong number two. Adrian Heath has made it clear that Tally is his number one and so the spot is his when he recovers. With the team in Ricketts' capable hands, Hall can focus on his recovery and not rush a premature comeback.
The sad reality is that there are risks associated with signing a player with an ACL injury. It is not uncommon to see a player go down with an ACL tear multiple times in their career -- just ask Stuart Holden and Charlie Davies. In case Hall suffers a setback or doesn't come back the same player he was before the injury, Heath still has a very solid player in Ricketts between the sticks as cover.
Between Tally Hall and Donovan Ricketts, the Lions will have one the strongest goalkeeping tandems in the league, and the two will be capable guardians for Orlando's inaugural season.