Every year teams add new faces and say goodbye to old ones and this year in Portland it’s more of the same.
The MLS Superdraft gave the Portland Timbers a chance to sign any of the four payers they drafted (they have signed two of them), but the departures of players like Alvas Powell to FC Cincinnati, Liam Ridgewell to Hull City in England’s second division, Samuel Armenteros back to Italy’s Benevento after his loan expired, not to mention the mid-season departure of reliable goal-scorer Fanendo Adi (also to FC Cincinnati) have left some holes to be filled this offseason.
Two players from the Timbers 2 have been added to the first team roster after outstanding seasons in the USL. Costa Rican central midfielders, Marvin Loría and Renzo Zambrano—21 and 24, respectively—have both been offered new contracts. If they pay close attention to the habits of David Guzmán and Diego Chará, they could be wearing green and gold for years to come.
After the departure of Adi, the goal-scoring void was filled by several contributors, but most surprising and most exciting was the emergence of Jeremy Ebobisse. Coach Giovani Savarese put his faith in the young striker and was rewarded with goals and a new option at center-forward. Ebobisse has since been called up to the United States National Team and looks like he’s poised to be an MLS player for years to come.
The loss of veteran defender and captain Liam Ridgewell, as well as energetic right-back Alvas Powell, were significant blows to the squad. But the Timbers have since made two moves that will add valuable depth and experience to the back line. Frenchman central defender Claude Dielna arrived from the New England Revolution and at right back, Paraguay international Jorge Moreira arrived on loan from Argentinean giants, River Plate.
Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson was surprisingly revealing about the club’s intentions in the transfer window. A top priority was an attacking-minded right back to replace Alvas Powell and add competition for Zarek Valentin. They have found that in an experienced international player, Jorge Moreira.
The other position that Wilkinson said he was focusing on was an attacking player; whoever lands with the Timbers, he is going to be a special player. The club is looking to sign a young and exciting attacking player to a Designated Player contract, meaning big money. The prospect of an attack with creators like Sebastian Blanco and Diego Valeri behind a young DP striker is more than a little exciting. Let’s take a look at who the young attacker might be.
The first rumor was involving Chilean striker Eduardo Vargas who has extensive international experience and has played for such European clubs as Napoli, Valencia and Hoffenheim. Vargas is 29 years old, however, and a deal couldn’t be reached. There are new names circulating now.
Ezequiel Ponce: At 21 years old, Ponce would be worth the investment. Although Italian giants AS Roma have him under contract, they have loaned him out to Spanish, French and Greek teams where he has gained invaluable experience and scored plenty of goals. Ponce is a natural predator in the box and is clever at finding small spaces in between defenders. If Roma choose to let him go out on loan for another year, it would be a pleasure to see him at Providence Park.
Julian Quiñones: Also 21 years old, the young Colombian striker has spent his entire career in Mexico with Tigres UANL. This situation would also likely be a loan transaction, but like Ponce, Quiñones is extremely athletic and a natural finisher. Linking up with Ebobisse could be a recipe for controlled chaos for the Timbers with either of these young players. The new additions to Providence Park are going to be a sight to see when the home opener rolls around and the Timbers have a lot going for them as they kick off the new season.
If they can get it right, this squad could easily be MLS Cup contenders once again in 2019.