In his first season as the Portland Timbers’ captain, Liam Ridgewell led by example as he guided his side to their first ever MLS Cup success.
After joining Portland halfway through their 2014 season, following his release from West Brom, Ridgewell was named as the club’s captain for the upcoming 2015 season.
Despite an upturn in form following the Englishman’s arrival in 2014, the season ended in disappointment for the Timbers as they finished outside the playoff spots.
Although the Timbers suffered a setback missing out on the playoffs that year, Ridgewell gained valuable experience in his new surroundings and that enabled him to set an exemplary example to his team-mates in the 2015 season.
Only two sides conceded less than the Timbers last year in regular season action and the former Birmingham City man had a large part to play in that.
The solid rearguard that the Timbers displayed, which Ridgewell helped to provide, saw the club finish third in the regular season, earning safe passage through to the MLS Cup playoffs.
However, the opening round of the playoffs was anything but safe. The Timbers narrowly defeated Sporting KC on penalties in a shootout where all 22 players took a penalty. Ridgewell calmly dispatched his strike from 12 yards during the mammoth shootout.
Two draws and three wins later, including a goal in the Western Conference final against Dallas, and Ridgewell was lifting the Timbers’ first ever MLS Cup in just their fifth season in the competition.
The 31-year-old finished the season with 37 appearances and also a goal to his name. He missed just three MLS matches all season.
The defender also featured in the CONCACAF Champions League and US Open Cup, although he was often rested in the cup competitions.
Ridgewell’s playoff goal against Dallas and the unusual celebration which followed…
Despite being born in London, Ridgewell spent the entirety of his footballing career in England, prior to the move to the US, in the Midlands.
After leaving West Ham United as a youth player, the ex-England U21 defender went on to make nearly 350 appearances combined for the Midlands clubs Aston Villa, Birmingham City and West Brom.
During his time with Birmingham, he won the League Cup in 2011, his only senior honour before joining the Timbers.
Since becoming a fans’ favourite in Portland, Ridgewell has twice returned to England during the off-season. He featured for Wigan Athletic last year and has just returned to the US after a spell with Championship promotion hopefuls Brighton & Hove Albion.
2015 was an exceptional year for Ridgewell. He led by example and guided Portland to their first ever MLS Cup.
2016 will see the defender lead his team-mates through the challenge of retaining a trophy which has never been easy to win twice in a row. The Timbers will be relying on more consistently solid performances from Ridgewell if they are to be victorious again.