Major League Soccer (MLS) champion, two-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and former Jamaican national team captain Donovan Ricketts will serve as the Emory men’s soccer team’s new goalkeeper coach, effective July.
“The hiring validates what we’re trying to do as a coaching staff,” Head Coach Sonny Travis said. “[We are trying to] put Emory soccer at the top of Division-III and of the country.”
Ricketts, 39, played 12 years of professional soccer across several leagues throughout the world.
He found the most success in the MLS, specifically with the Portland Timbers and Los Angeles Galaxy, where he won the MLS Cup (2011), the MLS’s Defensive Player of the Year (2009) and the MLS’s Goalkeeper of the Year (2010).
Ricketts’ tenure in Portland yielded a second of both the Defensive Player of the Year and the Goalkeeper of the Year awards in 2013.
To couple his professional awards, Ricketts has notched 100 international caps with the Jamaican national team and aided heavily in the team’s 2005 and 2008 victories at the Caribbean Cup.
Ricketts last played for the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2015. This will be the first coaching position that Ricketts has undertaken in his career.
“I can still remember how I was as a young 20-year-old goalkeeper,” Ricketts told the Wheel. “Now I’m armed with that experience of a kid trying to make it coupled with my experience from playing professionally.”
Ricketts’ championship pedigree was ultimately the deciding factor, Travis said.
“We had some good applicants for the job that I think would have come in and become a solid addition, but as soon as Donovan Ricketts’ name was in the mix, there was no question that he was our number one,” Travis said.
Ricketts and Emory were connected by Jeff Solem, an Emory soccer team alumnus and friend of Ricketts. Emory and Ricketts were able to come to a mutually beneficial agreement — the soccer program acquires the expertise of an international and MLS star, while Ricketts gets to launch his coaching career close to his native home in Jamaica.
“[The team is] going to be very open-minded about what his experiences have been at the highest level of the game,” Travis said. “We want to continue to seek a national championship, and this is a guy who can talk about championships.”
The hiring comes at a pivotal time for the program. With the graduation of Abe Hannigan, the competition for the starting goalkeeper position is wide open.
“Ricketts will have a major say over that decision,” Travis said. “It’s going to be a competition from the beginning.”
Travis said that Ricketts would have full reign over the goalkeepers. “I’m not going to tell Donovan Ricketts how to coach goalkeepers,” he said.
Rising juniors Jake Deuel and Graham LaBran-Boyd and incoming freshmen Jonathan Whyte and Trevor Stormes will compete for the first-choice spot.
“If they’re not motivated to be coached by someone as prestigious as Donovan Ricketts, then their passion for the game is not there,” Travis said.
Ricketts replaces Steward Ceus as Emory’s goalkeeper coach. As an active player on the Haitian national team, Ceus was forced to leave his post at Emory to fulfill his professional and national duties.
“With a little bit of luck, the stars aligned, and we were able to recruit Donovan Ricketts onto the coaching staff,” Travis said. “It’s one of the best recruits that we could have had to help our program’s prestige.”
Ricketts’ decision to join a Division-III program stems from an overall mantra of working his way up. His ultimate goal is to impart some of the traits that made him successful — such as fortitude and compartmentalization — while developing his coaching skills in the process.
“We [goalkeepers] are a special breed, some people even consider us crazy,” Ricketts said. “Therefore, the values that guided me while I played, and what I’ve seen in other professional goalkeepers, will be essential for me to relay to the goalkeepers at Emory.”