Can we forget about Zlatan for a moment and talk about another Swede who came stateside for the 2018/19 MLS season? All the talk has been about the big man in Los Angeles—and rightly so. Of all the stars that have come to the league, he is perhaps the most decorated and exciting of them all.
He joins an impressive cell of Swedish players in the league. The relationship between the highest Swedish league, the Allsvenskan, and the MLS has seemed to grow stronger in recent seasons. Countless players of many nationalities have played in the Allsvenskan before coming to Major League Soccer as the style of play seems to translate well, and the road goes both ways several Americans playing in Sweden.
Known for their intelligence and sound technical abilities, Swedish players have started popping up on quite a few rosters throughout the league. There are eight players on six different teams to be exact, and one of them has landed in Portland. Although he hasn’t showcased his abilities to the fullest just yet…it may just be a matter of time.
Samuel Armenteros. Having arrived on loan from Italian side Benevento Calcio during the off-season, he made an instant splash in the Portland Timbers preseason in Tucson, scoring four goals in the Mobile Mini Sun Cup and finishing top scorer of the tournament. So far, he’s had a tough time getting regular playing time, starting two games and appearing in eight (of nine) thus far. With the Timbers playing with one spearheading striker, it was always going to be difficult to dislodge Fanendo Adi from the starting lineup.
Armenteros is more a more mobile striker than the 6’4” Adi but he isn’t as strong with his back to the goal, as few players in the league are. After Liam Ridgewell, Armenteros is arguably the most experienced player on the Timbers, having played in the top leagues of The Netherlands, Belgium, Azerbaijan and Italy and has an impressive goal-scoring record almost everywhere he’s been. Internationally, he has two appearances for Sweden and has scored once.
As a player, he is a complete striker. He combines strength, pace, technical ability, a powerful left-foot and most importantly, the one thing that can’t be taught: a goal-scorers instinct. He knows where to be before the ball does.
It seems like somewhat of a coup to capture a player with such a pedigree. Players with resumes like his are more often than not Designated Players. We got a glimpse of his capabilities this past weekend when he came off the bench and had a fantastic assist for Sebastian Blanco’s 86th minute goal, winning the ball high up the field before sliding a direct pass through traffic right into the path of the Argentinean.
It’s not uncommon for players to take a little time to adapt to new surroundings and teammates and a player should never be judged on how they perform in their first few appearances. Of course we don’t hope that an injury to another player brings him more playing time, but he is a class player to have sitting on the bench. More playing time will build confidence and as soon as he gets his first goal, the floodgates might just burst open.