The Portland Timbers have a new keystone in Evander, and adding a young, dynamic goal scorer could be just what the doctor ordered for the Timbers next season.
The Timbers attack struggled for much of last season, particularly down the final stretch of the season, where they could not manage to score more than a single goal twice in a match over the final three months of the campaign and missed out on the playoffs.
To solve that problem, the Timbers made what may go down as the splashiest move in club history. The 24-year-old Brazilian brings a dynamic threat to the table unlike the Timbers have ever really had before and could be a fixture of MLS highlight reals for at least the next several years.
He comes to the Timbers from Denmark’s top-tier league, Danish Superliga side FC Midtjylland after scoring 50 goals in over 160 appearances across five seasons. He made his professional debut at age 18 in Brazil and has compiled a dazzling highlight reel since then.
The Timbers didn’t go cheap to get him either, spending a reported $10 million transfer fee to make him a designated player. That would make it the largest signing in club history in terms of dollars and may also make it the biggest signing in what it does in on-field impact. The Timbers have needed a dynamic playmaker since the downslope began on Diego Valeri’s storied career, and if Evander lives up to the hype, he should provide exactly that.
He also represents a departure from how the Timbers have historically tried to improve their offense. Under former General Manager Gavin Wilkinson, the team repeatedly acquired “poaching” strikers, such as Kenny Cooper, Kris Boyd, and Brian Fernandez, to current forward Jaroslaw Niezgoda. Many of those acquisitions proved to be no more than short-term band-aids, while Niezgoda has struggled to find his place in the line-up while overcoming an ACL tear suffered in 2020.
Those players were most effective when hanging around near the net or pouncing on chances near the goal. And most of them were no longer in the prime of their career when they joined the Timbers. Evander, on the hand, at just 24, has plenty of mileage left and, if anything, is hitting the best years of his professional career.
While Evander’s addition bumped Niezgoda from the team’s designated player ranks, his presence may be just what helps the Polish forward get back to the goal-scoring ways that attracted the Timbers to him in the first place.
Evander is masterful about drawing in defenders and creating space, which he then either uses to his own advantage or to free up his teammates. If the Timbers can make use of the space and mismatches he creates, he will be worth his contract and more, even if he doesn’t need to be a primary goal scorer.
“Evander has shown every game that not only he brings good qualities, but he’s also a player that tries to always be in the right area with or without the ball,” said Timbers coach Giovanne Savarese. “He’s always trying to link the defense and the attack and can compete at a high level.”
However, for the sake of seeing the Timbers wind up in SportsCenter Top 10 regularly, we should all hope he becomes a primary goal scorer in Portland because the man can score some spectacular goals.
While this is the biggest transfer fee in club history, it may also go down as the biggest signing in club history for other reasons. The Timbers need a reason to turn the page on a particularly miserable chapter in its history. A regime that brought about numerous scandals off the results and inconsistent results on it has been swept away. Merritt Paulson’s time as owner of the club may be winding down. When he succeeds in selling the Portland Thorns, it would seem only a matter of time before he does the same with the Timbers. A fresh, dynamic face on the field is just what the Timbers need, and in Evander, they have hopefully found it.
While the Timbers have been scouting Evander for the better part of three years, it’s the new regime that finally convinced him it was time to come to the states. When the team first looked into him three years ago, Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco were still playing at a high level. Now Valeri has moved on, and Blanco is in his mid-30s. The Timbers’ struggles in the attack in the second half of last season show just how badly a player of Evander’s caliber is needed.
If Evander proves to be every bit as brilliant as he seems to be capable of being, that will go a long way toward getting the Timbers on the right track. If he keeps the Timbers’ streak of seasons missing the playoffs since 2016 permanently frozen at one and gives us reason to talk about the Timbers making highlights on the field instead of making a mess off it, that club-record transfer fee will have been worth it and then some.