Timbers’ Weber grows from backup to backstop

Goalkeeper will face former Sounders teammates Saturday

By Paul Danzer, Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter

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Andrew Weber, Portland Timbers goalkeeper

PORTLAND — Andrew Weber has started eight Major League Soccer games, five of them for the Seattle Sounders.

But the goalkeeper said none of that history will impact the his job Saturday, when he guards the goal for the Portland Timbers against the rival Sounders at Providence Park.

“It’s just stepping in and doing the job, keeping everything organized and being in the moment,” Weber said. “It’s a chance to play another game. The more games I can get consecutively, goalkeeping is all about rhythm, so the more rhythm I can get the better it is for me.”

This opportunity comes for Weber because Timbers starting goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts is suspended through this match for the foul that led to a penalty kick in Portland’s March 22 loss at Colorado. Weber finished that game and played all of last week’s 2-1 loss at Dallas.

Goalkeepers are most often noticed when they make a highlight save, or fail to make a stop. The physical demands of the position are what attracted Weber to the position.

“I wanted to be a goalkeeper when I was 10 years old,” he said. “I just loved the whole idea of jumping around and saving the ball and being physical. I was playing football as well, so it was the same sort of concept when I was coming out for the ball. You get to be physical, so that’s what I liked.”

Weber said great support from his youth soccer coaches helped him embrace the position for its leadership requirements in addition to the thrill of physical challenges.

“The more I got exposed to the position, (I learned) you have to put the team on your shoulders a lot and I love that role,” Weber said. “I embraced it then, and I’ll embrace it again (Saturday).”

The take-charge nature of a goalkeeper’s job is one of the challenges every backup or newcomer faces. A goalkeeper is a second pair of eyes for defenders and other teammates, reading play as it unfolds and calling out the position of opponents who are away from the ball.

“Everyone’s getting a little more comfortable hearing my voice,” Weber said. He noted that he saw action in preseason and has been with the Timbers since January, so it’s not as if his voice is new to his teammates. “I think we’re good to go.”

The Timbers signed Weber in January to back up Ricketts, a job held last season by veteran Milos Kocic.

Now 30, Weber has lived the goalkeeper’s life through college, where he was a four-year starter at New Mexico, and a professional career for almost a decade. He has been on MLS rosters with DC United and San Jose, in addition to Seattle. He played two games for San Jose in 2009, and three for the Sounders each of the last two seasons. He was the Sounders’ primary backup in 2012 — when he played a midseason match at Portland won 2-1 by the Timbers — and last season joined Seattle on loan from Phoenix FC of the USL Pro league.

In 10 career MLS appearances, Weber has made 25 saves and been scored against 14 times. That includes the two penalty kicks minutes apart when he relieved Ricketts two weeks ago in Colorado.

His most consistent playing time as a professional came between 2006 and 2008 with the Montreal Impact in the USL First Division.

His time in Seattle means Weber understands the intensity of the Timbers-Sounder rivalry. But he said he doesn’t have any special motivation. Doing a job for his current club is what matters.

“The objective (Saturday) is about the team, about helping the team winning the game,” Weber said. Everything else will take care of itself.”