Ricketts, Valeri earn more honors for Timbers

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

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The trophy case is still empty, but the recognition keeps coming for the 2013 Portland Timbers.

On Wednesday goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts was named Major League Soccer Goalkeeper of the Year and midfielder Diego Valeri was named the league's Newcomer of the Year.

The awards were voted on by media, MLS players and MLS club management based on regular-season performance.

Ricketts, 36, and Valeri, 27, were both named to the MLS Best XI on Tuesday.

Ricketts, who also won the award in 2010 with Los Angeles, posted career highs with 14 shutouts, 92 saves and 2,880 minutes played in 2013. He won the fan vote for save of the week 10 times during the season.

He had shutout streaks of 401 minutes, 323 minutes and 312 minutes during the season.

The other finalists for the goalkeeper of the year were Nick Rimando of Real Salt Lake, Jimmy Nielsen of Sporting Kansas City and Luis Robles of New York. Ricketts received 51 percent of the votes from club personnel and more player votes than Rimando, who was second in the voting but received the highest percentage of media votes.

Ricketts came to Portland from Montreal in August of 2012 in a trade for goalkeeper Troy Perkins. This was the fifth season in MLS for the Jamaican national team goalkeeper.

While Ricketts was well known, Valeri was more of an under-the-radar acquisition when he came to the Timbers in January on loan from Argentina's Club Atlético Lanús. In August, the Timbers purchased Valeri's contract and signed him to a multi-year contract. As one of the team's designated players, only part of his salary counts against the salary cap.

On Wednesday Valeri had successful surgery to repair a sports hernia injury that he played with during the last two months of the season.

The surgery was done at Surgery Center of the Pacific in Santa Monica, Calif. His recovery time is expected to take between four and six weeks.

Players in their first season in MLS, but with prior professional experience, are eligible for the newcomer of the year award. Valeri dominated voting for the award.

Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson, who brought Valeri to coach Caleb Porter's attention, said in October that he was pleased how quickly Valeri adapted MLS.

"(Designated players) carry a lot of pressure in this league. After the scouting and everything else, you're very confident he is going to be a great addition, but there's still a sense of nerves," Wilkinson said. "You want the player to settle in. You want the player to do well. With Valeri, he did settle in very quickly."

Any concern that Valeri would struggle to adjust to MLS quickly vanished.

His juggling goal in the season-opener against New York earned him the first of four fan-voted goals of the week.

The first Timbers MLS player to record double-digit totals in goals and assists in a season, Valeri produced 10 goals and a league-best 13 assists despite the injury that had him in and out of the lineup over the final two months of the season.

Wednesday's announcements were the latest in a string of league honors for the Timbers. Porter was named the league's coach of the year.

Earlier, Darlington Nagbe was named the winner of the 2013 MLS award for fair play.

On Thursday, the most valuable player, the goal of the year, and the save of the year will be annouced. The MLS Cup championship match is at 1 p.m. Saturday, with Real Salt Lake visiting Sporting Kansas City.