The Portland Timbers have announced the signing of defender Chris Duvall for the 2020 season. Roster Depth Duvall has been with the Timbers for weeks now as a trialist. He is expected to be the backup right back behind starter Jorge Moreira, who was one of the best attacking defenders in the league last year. Of course, that dichotomy demonstrates one of Moreira’s consistent problems from last year: tracking back. Duvall is much less of an attacking threat (2 goals and 7 assists from 102 career matches) than Moreira, but he should provide better cover defensively. The 28-year-old Duvall brings six years of MLS experience to the table, and helps stabilize a position that took a significant hit with the loss of Bill Tuiloma for a couple months to a calf strain and the departure of Zarek Valentin in the offseason via the MLS Expansion Draft. While Tuiloma’s main position is center back, his previous experience at right back made him the next man up behind Moreira. Welcome, Chris!
The season is almost here, and it appears Portland is almost ready to go. The squad is currently doing some preseason training in Costa Rica. Their first preseason match was yesterday against Saprissa, which Portland won 2-1. The Timbers recently picked up Chilean forward Felipe Mora and Polish forward Jaroslaw Niezgoda. Felipe Mora Mora is on a loan using Targeted Allocation Money, according to The Athletic. The loan reportedly includes an option to buy, which means Portland can retain him next season if he finally becomes the #9 we’ve been looking for since… well, the #9 we’ve been looking for. Mora has played in Chile and Mexico, the latter with Cruz Azul and Pumas. Mora is a pure #9. He plants himself on the defense’s backline, often in between the opponent center backs. Most of his goals come from headers and poaching chances in the box. Not a bad plan for a team that fell into the empty void of crosses last season—Portland was 2nd in MLS in crosses (557) and 12th in goals scored (53)—so after a naive first glance, it would seem they need a proven poacher upfront. Jarek Niezgoda Brian Fernández was more of a dynamic forward, and so is Jarek Niezgoda, Portland’s newest signee. Niezgoda probably cost just under $4 million in transfer fees, and he joins the squad as a Designated Player, occupying the third and final DP spot on the Timbers’ roster. Since becoming a bonafide starter for Legia Warsaw in 2017, Niezgoda has scored 39 goals in 87 appearances. This includes a Polish-league-leading 14 goals in 18 appearances in the latest installment of the Ekstraklasa. He’s a spry 24, so hopefully a touch quicker than CSN’s own Kevin Nesgoda. After announcing the signing of Niezgoda, Timbers GM Gavin Wilkinson gave a very interesting sigh of relief to MLS’s Tom Bogert. Included was a scouting report of the new striker: “Jarek is capable of playing as a single No. 9 or as a two, and he’s even played out wide in the past. Balancing his characteristics with Jeremy, we feel very good about that position. He’s a goal scorer, comfortable with both feet. Good size, good athleticism and can finish in a variety of ways. He attacks the ball. With his feet, he’s very quick, gets the ball off his foot very quickly and he’s an honest, hard-working player.” via Tom Bogert On the Pitch In the aforementioned report, Gavin indicated the Timbers would announce the signings of Mora and Cristhian Paredes (who is still technically on loan from Club América). These were both given substance by fan-turned-insider Keith Palau, and the former was confirmed by the Timbers. Portland will have two DP attacking wingers and one DP forward. My assumption is that all three of these players will start, making an all-DP front line of Sebástian Blanco, Niezgoda, and Yimmi Chará. Both Blanco and Yimmi historically like to cut inside, meaning the Jorges (Moreira and Villafaña) will continue to bomb up the flanks and send in crosses. This is all fine and good, except it would be ideal to have a big center forward on the end of those. Mora may seem like the obvious choice for this, but keep in mind that Niezgoda is 6’1″—small in basketball, but pretty dang tall for a soccer player. Within his quick assessment of Niezgoda, head coach Giovanni Savarese mentioned the forward being “good with his head,” so it hopefully he’s still be an aerial threat. Possible Starting Formations As per last week’s roster check, this is still how I saw the starting XI shaking out: But Gavin’s comments from last week have me almost certain of a two-forward system. He mentioned the system itself and made it clear Jebo had a place in the squad: “We believe in Jeremy Ebobisse,” Wilkinson said.&nbsp;”He’s a quality player with a big upside and he’s not the finished product, so we have to be careful not to limit his growth and minutes. We wanted to acquire a Young DP that also has an upside that Jeremy can compete with, and with a profile to change systems and tactics so they can play with one another.” via Tom Bogert This dual-striker idea, while presenting an attacking pipe dream (via a probable solution to Portland’s problem of breaking down teams in a low block), begs the question—if we’re adding a forward, who comes off the field? My instincts say a holding midfielder (so, Paredes) or moving to three at the back by replacing Villafaña and Moreira with another fullback (probably Bill Tuiloma). Playing with three center backs is something Savarese mentioned at Portland’s Media Day last week. I’d also welcome a three-man backline that still included the regular outside fullbacks. For these purposes, I’m assuming the Jorges’ attacking tendencies (and long-lamented lack of tracking back) would keep them out of this system, but I’m sure Gio could justify a way of making it work. Maybe some Jebo on the Wing™ will be a starting option in a 4-3-3. Right now, the 4-3-3 would be my best guess as to what the Timbers will put out on March 1st. It checks all the boxes Gavin mentioned and keeps Portland’s most proven players on the field in a system that’s still similar to Gio’s past ones. If one thing’s clear from these signings, it’s that it’s finally time to say goodbye to Savarese’s beloved 4-3-2-1 “Christmas Tree” that served as Portland’s security blanket XI in the past two years. Poor Tannenbaum. Portland may also play with five at the back that adapts into a 3-6-1 or 3-5-2 in attack to utilize the strengths of the Jorges. Feel free to choose your own adventure and plugin Jebo somewhere with this formation, too. Regardless of what exact system Gio goes with, the fact that we can even speculate this much highlights an important feature of this team: its positive evolution. At the beginning of last season, we were struggling to select 11 guys that were starting-caliber MLS players. Now it seems we have an embarrassment of riches, especially up top. Although we haven’t seen them in action yet, Gavin and owner Merritt Paulson should be receiving a bit of praise for clearly identifying areas of need and filling them with no-nonsense signings. Again, we have to see how these newbies adapt, but on paper, it’s a job well done. Depth Chart Here’s my interpretation of a hypothetical Timbers “depth chart”—I went for realisticness over the organization. Considering we’re pretty far from even knowing what kind of formation or system we’ll play, it’s safe to say most of this is up in the air. Still, feel free to slander me on any social media platform or the comments below. Goalkeeper Steve Clark Jeff Attinella Aljaz Ivacic Steve Clark has proven his spot as the first keeper over the course of last season. In 24 starts last season, Clark finished third in MLS in save percentage (.755), second in goals allowed per 90 (1.04) and recorded a clean sheet 25% of the time. The Timbers are clearly committed to Clark, giving him a new contract over the offseason. Attinella is still a starting-quality ‘keeper for the most part, and he did start in 10 matches last season. While he conceded 24 goals in that stretch, it’s worth noting that both these goalies dealt with some truly abysmal performances by the other 10 players throughout the season, too. Ivacic is the clear choice above other Timbers 2 goalies Kendall McIntosh (who has departed) and Jake Leeker, who he’ll continue to share reps with in the USL Championship with T2. Center Back Larrys Mabiala Dario Zuparic Bill Tuiloma* Julio Cascante One of Portland’s worst overall positions last year was center back. When Larrys Mabiala was out with an injury, it seemed the Cascante-Tuiloma pairing took much too long to gel. Claude Dielna (who was not resigned) struggled to keep up with the competition when called upon, as well. Even when Mabiala returned, the defense was still not up to snuff. Often times, it took Steve Clark standing on his head to keep the ball out of the net. It wasn’t surprising, then, that the first big offseason move Portland made was to sign a new center back, Dario Zuparic. A TAM signing, Zuparic will probably be good enough, especially because of Gio’s indication that Tuiloma can be used at positions other than CB. *As of yesterday’s match against Saprissa, Tuiloma will be out for two months. Better sign another defender… Left Back Jorge Villafaña Marco Farfan Bill Tuiloma No signings have been made here (yet), so the depth chart pretty much stays the same. Farfan is preferred on the left, and it feels like Moreira’s spot is a tad more secure than Villafaña’s. Bill will appear on both outside back positions just as a filler. Unless there are injuries, I doubt we’ll actually see him there. Right Back Jorge Moreira Marco Farfan Bill Tuiloma Again, nothing new here, although right back was an area addressed by Gavin and Gio at Media Day. Farfan is still the second string at both these positions assuming he recovers well from injury. Chris Duvall is currently on trial as a right back with the squad in Costa Rica. He’d be a solid backup at a thin position. Stopper Diego Chará Cristhian Paredes Renzo Zambrano Andres Flores* Eryk Williamson Bill Tuiloma *Flores is out for a bit with a meniscus tear, but that shouldn’t change this order too much. Depending on how Gio decides to set up, we may continue to see the Paredes/Chará pairing in the holding midfield. If only one is used, it will be Chará. Portland’s only All-Star last year was sent there for a reason. He still hasn’t shown signs of slowing down, even at 33. Zambrano and Williamson got intermittent reps with the first team last year, and Williamson especially got some crucial minutes. The soon-to-be-23-year-old played a full 90 in Portland’s 2-1 home win over Sporting Kansas City in September and started the next match, playing 61 more minutes. I wouldn’t be surprised if he passed the more experienced Zambrano during the year. Tuiloma has actually played a bit of stopper for us in the past, so he’s another viable option should the midfield get thin. Central Attacking Midfielder Diego Valeri Sebástian Blanco Tomás Conechny Eryk Williamson Blake Bodily This might as well be called “the Valeri position.” It’s not exactly a #10 creative piece, but it’s also not a pure #8 box-to-box duty. El Maestro is back on a new contract, and although he’s no longer a DP, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be starting in this spot. Blanco will often push in from the wing and be another creator from the inside, giving Portland more options in attack. When Valeri’s out, he’s filled in well at this spot, too. Conechny has shown flashes of his ability to lead the team from the attacking midfield—our best example being the 2-1 midweek loss at Montréal from last year in which a bunch of fringe-starters and T2 guys played. Conechny scored in this match, although Williamson occupied this position. I put Bodily here because he’s a warm body that can play in the midfield. Maybe he get some Open Cup appearances. Adieu If I’ve learned anything from writing this, it’s that I am absolutely itching for the season to start. It’s a shame that the preseason matches in Costa Rica won’t be streamed, but I’ll see if I can piece together what goes on down there. Dare I say… if we sign a backup right back, this will be the deepest Timbers squad we’ve seen since 2015, possibly ever.
Today was Media Day for the Timbers, and while I’m still 2,000 miles away, there were a few things I was very interested in from today—most notably from Gavin Wilkinson and Giovanni Savarese‘s joint press conference. We’ll start with that and work our way through the rest. Sebastian Blanco and Diego Valeri got individual interviews, while the Chará brothers got a joint one. The link to the full 10+ minute interview can be found here. Expect at least 2 more signings …specifically at right back. Both Gavin and Gio mentioned this number and specific position as an area in which they’re seeking transfers. The Timbers already have Jorge Moreira for at least another six months, but depth will be a problem with the departure of Zarek Valentin. Gavin also mentioned maybe signing an attacker…lo and behold, a few hours later, multiple sources reported that the Timbers were interested in Jorge Carrascal, a Colombian attacking midfielder currently at River Plate. Those of you with good reading comprehension skills will recognize that he is not a right back, and some are questioning if Portland has the kind of money to splurge on another attacking piece of his caliber right now, especially if the highly likely Jaroslaw Niezgoda signing goes through as a Designated Player. Still pretty exciting, though! Valeri’s back, and he really wanted to be It looks even more like Diego Valeri’s contract dispute was between him being a Designated Player or not. When asked about the importance of Valeri resigning, Wilkinson emphasized how Valeri was “looking at what’s right for the club from a contract perspective…and when MLS release their salary cap numbers, etc. you’ll start to see that he is fully committed…” It sure doesn’t sound like the Timbers broke the bank to retain El Maestro. Gavin even used the words “fully appreciative” to describe his attitude towards Diego’s new contract. All of this implies that Valeri did the Timbers some sort of favor by keeping a Designated Player slot open (which he did), and it’s now clear that the club thinks that way as well. In his interview, Valeri highlighted his love for the club and city. He also noted how much easier it was to get into the groove of the season knowing the team wouldn’t have to hit the road to start the year. The longer offseason was another point of emphasis. Valeri and Blanco both noted how they wanted to go farther in the playoffs than last year. It’s good to hear ambition coming from the leaders of the team on the first day back. Dario Zuparic will make an instant impact When asked about what Dario Zuparic can bring to the squad, Gavin seemed to hint at Larrys Mabiala and Zuparic being the two starters. Both Gavin and Gio emphasized how they have four capable players (Zuparic, Mabiala, Bill Tuiloma, and Julio Cascante) at center back. Gio mentioned possibly playing three at the back at some point, also alluding to Tuiloma’s ability to play “in the middle”—by this he could mean the midfield or the center fo defense, both roles he has occupied for the Timbers in the past. He also added a fun anecdote about receiving encouraging texts after signing Zuparic. Andrés Flores is out …for 4-6 weeks. Although this was put out as a press release, it happened on the same day, so it pretty much counts as media day news. Flores suffered a torn meniscus with the El Salvadorian National Team and will be unavailable for a month or so after surgery. This depletes Portland’s depth for the time being, but it’s not a crucial loss to the midfield. We wish Flores the best for a safe and speedy recovery. Hair News As always, Craig Mitchelldyer took some fabulous photos. For me, the highlights are as follows: Yimmi giving Diego a yellow card Valeri’s man bun Mabiala’s golden dome Gio’s beard—which he also mentioned in the presser It’s pronounced “Jimmy” Both Blanco and Valeri talked about how similar Diego and Yimmi Chará were, in personality and on the field. Diego Chará gave some insight into his brother’s attacking ability, but his descriptions of being a “very quick” and “attacking player” were not as nice as the reassurance that “he will score goals.” Diego said he loved “everything about Portland” and reiterated countless times that he was very excited to be able to play with his brother again. Yimmi, who doesn’t speak English but communicated through a translator, said Diego played a key role in the Timbers signing him. The younger Chará by five years, Yimmi was a little more soft-spoken than Diego, but he still said he was impressed by the overall organization and was training separately to get his fitness up before joining the first team. The final question asked if the brothers would perform a Colombian dance if one of them scored. Diego seemed pretty reluctant, citing that Yimmi would probably have to do the scoring, but Yimmi said they would come up with one and practice it. The full interview is linked here. Needless to say, this pairing comes with plenty of storylines, even if the season doesn’t pan out on the pitch for whatever reason.
A new year is here, and as the Trail Blazers flirt with their worst season since 2012-13, many Portland sports fans can’t wait for the start of Timbers season on March 1st. While the Timbers are still without a new Designated Player striker, they have made a few interesting roster moves. Here’s a quick rundown on what roster moves have transpired since the season’s end back on October 19th, 2019: Defender Dario Zuparic was signed using Targeted Allocation Money (TAM). Jorge Moreira‘s loan from River Plate was extended by six months. The Timbers expressed interest in extending Cristhian Paredes‘ loan, and it appears they have, with announcements like this coming after the loan’s expiration date on the new year. Sidenote on Paredes: there is another Cristhian Paredes playing in a club in Paraguay, leading some sources to falsely say our Paredes had been transferred there. The more you know. Claude Dielna, Kendall McIntosh, Modou Jadama, and Foster Langsdorf were all let go. Steve Clark was re-signed to a new contract. Diego Valeri was re-signed using TAM. Yimmi Chará (Diego’s brother) was signed as a Designated Player from Colombian side Atlético Mineiro. Zarek Valentin was selected by Nashville SC in the Expansion Draft. Portland drafted Aaron Molloy, Zac McGraw, and Joergen Oland out of the SuperDraft. These guys aren’t expected to see first team minutes, though. Brian Fernández was signed by Colon de Santa Fe on a free transfer. The Timbers already terminated his contract last calendar year. Midfielder Blake Bodily was signed as a Home Grown Player from the University of Washington. Of course, you may have heard that the Timbers are probably going to sign Polish striker Jaroslaw Niezgoda from Legia Warsaw. Reports indicate that he was in Portland and getting a physical while the Timbers finalize things. Finally, it looks like Portland might not be done quite yet during the transfer window: This leaves the current roster as follows: Forwards: Jeremy Ebobisse Midfielders: Dairon Asprilla, Sebástian Blanco, Diego Chará, Yimmi Chará, Tomás Conechny, Andres Flores, Marvin Loría, Andy Polo, Diego Valeri, Eryk Williamson, Renzo Zambrano Defenders: Julio Cascante, Marco Farfan, Larrys Mabiala, Jorge Moreira, Bill Tuiloma, Jorge Villafaña, Dario Zuparic Goalkeepers: Jeff Attinella, Steve Clark, Aljaz Ivacic Assuming Niezgoda is added, there’s a pretty solid picture of how the Timbers will line up for the season opener on March 1st. It’ll be interesting to see who wins out the starting spots on the back line. Hopefully having a new defender around will push Cascante, Mabiala, and Tuiloma to their best. Ebobisse as a backup left winger or center forward sounds about his speed. Knowing our injury history and the rigors of MLS, I’m sure he’ll get plenty of reps as the season wears on. All things considered, this looks like a great starting XI, but it’s not as good as it could be. I guess what I’m saying is, it’s a very Portland Timbers XI in that there’s not a ton of big names (outside the Diegos, to an extent) like you might see elsewhere in MLS, but plenty of potential for the new guys to become big names. At the end of the day, it’s all about how this unit can work together to get consistent results—something we never really saw from the Timbers in 2019. I think one big lesson we can take from last year is that early-season games still very much matter, so it’d be nice to have a thorough season from start to finish.
- Portland Timbers
The Timbers and Thorns have both been recognized by the Portland Business Journal’s 2019 Commercial Real Estate Transformer Awards for the renovations and expansion of Providence Park. The awards are given to projects which are believed to be leading the way in design and function, as well as those having an impact on the regional development landscape. The 20-month transformation of Providence Park added 4,000 new seats – increasing the capacity to a total of 25,218. Even with the expansion, the Timbers were able to continue their sellout streak to 161 games with a total average of 25,218 supporters. The Thorns came in right behind with an average of 20,098 which set a new attendance record. Both clubs set new records and found themselves ranked in the top ten across professional soccer teams in North America.
The Portland Timbers today announced their current roster ahead of the 2020 season. Most glaring is the decision not to exercise the 2020 contract option on midfielder Diego Valeri. The club has stated, however, that they are continuing discussions with Valeri to keep in in Portland. The Following players are already under contract for the 2020 season: Goalkeepers Jeff Attinella Aljaz Ivacic Defenders Julio Cascante Marco Farfan Larrys Mabiala Bill Tuiloma Jorge Villafaña Midfielders Dairon Asprilla Sebastián Blanco Diego Chara Tomás Conechny Andrés Flores Marvin Loría Andy Polo Eryk Williamson Renzo Zambrano Forward Jeremy Ebobisse The club declined the options of goalkeeper Kendall McIntosh, defender Modou Jadama and forward Foster Langsdorf – all of whom are out of a contract. Sebastián Blanco will return to the club as a Designated Player. Additionally, the Timbers signed defender Dario Zuparic to a multi-year contract using Targeted Allocation Money (TAM).
Brian Fernandez has been released from the Portland Timbers The Portland Timbers, together with Major League Soccer, have terminated the contract of Brian Fernandez due to failure to comply with the league’s substance abuse and behavioral health (SABH) program. A press release was issued on Friday supplying little information. What we do know is that the league can terminate a player’s contract for violation of the SABH if they are subject to penalties for testing positive for a banned substance, for noncompliance, or for refusal to submit to a drug test as required under the SABH. The club has not commented on the specifics of the release, but Paul Tenorio of the Atheltic is reporting that the MLS Players Association intends on filing a grievance on behalf of Fernandez. The 25-year-old designated player entered the SABH program voluntarily prior to the MLS Playoffs with the team issuing a statement announcing their support for the player. It is unclear whether Fernandez was added to the team’s protection list ahead of Tuesday’s expansion draft.