After missing out on Joleon Lescott, MLS side Portland Timbers have signed former West Brom, Aston Villa and Birmingham City defender Liam Ridgewell on a multi-year Designate Player contract. The 29-year old centre half was released by Albion at the end of the 2013/14 Premier League season following three seasons with the Baggies, all of which were spent in the top flight of English football.
Ridgewell becomes only the third defender to be given a Designated Player contract in MLS history following Rafael Marquez’s ill fated spell with the New York Red Bulls, and Omar Gonzalez of the Los Angeles Galaxy.
“Liam is still in his prime at only 29 years old, and he's been playing game in and out in the English Premier League versus many of the top attacking players in the world," Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said in a club statement. "This pedigree, along with his leadership qualities and technical ability as a left-sided central defender, makes him an ideal choice to enhance our back line for the second half of the season and beyond."
Ridgewell has made over 300 appearances in his career to date, 250 of which have been in the Premier League, and will join a Portland side that are desperately needing a boost to a leaky backline that has conceded 27 times in just 16 games - one of the highest in Major League Soccer this season. He will officially join the team’s roster upon receipt of his visa, and will miss this weekend’s match against defending MLS Cup champions Sporting Kansas City.
Ridgewell’s signature marks the second Designated Player that the Timbers have signed in the past week. Striker Fanendo Adi, formerly of Danish side FC Copenhagen, had his DP option picked up after impressing up front in an original loan spell where netted four times in six games. The other DP is Diego Valeri, an attacking midfielder that has made three appearances for the Argentine national team.
Ridgewell is said to have been swayed in his decision to join the Oregon side after taking in a game at Providence Park and seeing how passionate the Timbers Army were in their support of the team as well as the teams style of football and philosophy. He is yet to be given a shirt number.