The Portland Timbers Offseason: Who's Staying, Who's Leaving, and Who's Coming?
The Portland Timbers didn’t wait long to kick the offseason into high-gear, announcing a flurry of moves over social media Monday morning. Owner Merritt Paulson and co remained tight-lipped amid a flurry of credible rumors, from photos of Nat Borchers at Pizza Italia holding an iconic No Pity scarf, to revealing glitches on Major League Soccer’s website, sleuthed by the Oregonian’s Jamie Goldberg.
Those rumors all turned out to be true, and then some. By the end of the day, Portland had added four new players, said goodbye to three, and released their protected/unprotected list for Wednesday’s Expansion Draft. Here is a breakdown of all of the movement:
Nat Borchers, D, acquired from Real Salt Lake for allocation money. The hulking 6’2” center back brings years of MLS experience – and one epic Portland-appropriate beard – to the Rose City. If the Timbers’ biggest flaw in 2014 was a lack of continuity on the back line, the addition of Borchers brings immediate stability, along with a winning pedigree, and loads of playoff experience. While his age, 33 (he turns 34 early in April), is a credible concern, Borchers has averaged over 29 starts and 2800 minutes over the past three seasons, and missed only two games in 2014. His predecessors, and there have been many, were too often red-cards-waiting-to-happen; Borchers, on the other hand, received three yellow cards last year. That’s it. One the year before, and zero in 2012. He hasn’t been red-carded in over three years. This all for one of the best defenses in MLS over the past decade. And did we mention he really wants to be here? Really. Swoon. Plain and simple: Portland needed an experienced defender who knows how to win in MLS, and they got one. His partnership with Liam Ridgewell is instantly one of the best around.
Adam Larsen Kwarasey, GK, signed on a free transfer from Strømsgodset (Norway). Another rumor-come-true dredged up from MLS’s website issues, the Timbers have acquired their goalkeeper of the present and future. The 26-year old Kwarasey was born-and-raised in Norway to a Ghanaian father and Norwegian mother, and chooses to represent Ghana internationally. The 6’3” ‘keeper has represented Ghana 21 times, most recently at the World Cup in Brazil. The Oslo native started 154 games for Strømsgodset starting with their promotion back to the top flight in 2007. In 2013, he captained them to their first league title since 1970. For his efforts, Kwarasey was named top goalkeeper in the Norwegian Tippeligaen. His highlights, dare we say, exhibit a Nick Rimando quality, with Ricketts’s size. Plain and simple: He is a poised, athletic goalkeeper with loads of experience. A full decade younger than Donovan Ricketts, Kwarasey may very well still have his best years ahead of him, and we could be looking at a future multiple-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.
Dairon Asprilla, M/F, signed from Alianza Petrolera (Colombia). The first of two off-the-radar acquistions, the spritely winger/forward comes to the Rose City following thee successful seasons in the Colombian top division. At just 22-years of age, Asprilla has already made 71 top-flight appearances, scoring an impressive 22 goals. Like Adam Kwarasey, Asprilla knows how to lead a team to new heights, having helped Alianza Petrolera gain promotion for the first time. In fitting fashion, he scored his club’s first-ever top-flight goal, earning them their first win in their first game. Plain and simple: His preferred position on the right flank makes him an ideal replacement for the retired Steve Zakuani. He is two years younger than Khalif Alhassan and will provide cover for Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri. Once the roster is fully healthy, expect Asprilla to be the first offensive sub off the bench.
Jeanderson Salvador Pereira (“Jeanderson”), D, signed from Cruzeiro de Porto Alegre (Brazil). The first Brazilian ever to don the Green and Gold, Jeanderson is the least-known commodity of the four new Timbers. What we do know is that he plays left back and is offensively-minded. The 23-year old has made just 21 appearances over two years in the Brazilian lower divisions. Plain and simple: He is clearly being brought in on the prospect of his raw skill, not past results. The Timbers are a cagey, veteran group in the center of defense, but are remarkably young on the outside. Jeanderson, aside from having the cachet of a one-name Brazilian, is likely cover for Alvas Powell and Jorge Villafaña.
Michael Harrington, D, traded to Colorado for allocation money. After two years in Portland, Mikey Mo Money is on his way to the Rapids. Rumor has it the allocation money received in return rivals what Portland paid Sporting Kansas City for his services, making the deal a good piece of business. Plain and simple: It’s sad to see a fan-favorite go, but he simply lost out to younger, hungrier players. Harrington fell out of favor in Portland and never really recovered, so here’s hoping a fresh start is just what the doctor ordered. Except when we play the Rapids.
Pa Modou Kah, D, option not picked up. Another cult hero on the way out, Kah was made expendable with the Borchers acquisition. The 34-year old Gambian/Norwegian was a leader on and off the pitch, a cult hero, and a stalwart of the magical “Great Wall of Gambia” season in 2013. Plain and simple: The back line was Portland’s weak point last year, and someone has to take the fall. A nagging bout of Achilles tendonitis compounds the problem and, with the steady improvement of Norberto Paparatto, Kah was the odd-man-out on the depth chart.
Khalif Alhassan, M/F, option not picked up. Speaking of cult heroes, the last USL Timber was given every chance to succeed, but never found his niche in the lineup. The 24-year old is a forever prospect that never blossomed, and could easily end up on an expansion team, or perhaps more fittingly, on T2. Plain and simple: Asprilla is likely what Khalif should have become two or three years ago, and it’s time to move on.
In Other Important News:
Alvas Powell officially purchased, signs long-term deal. This was at, or near, the top of Gavin Wilkinson’s to-do list this off-season. The finalization of Powell’s purchase from Jamaican club Portmore United gives the Timbers a long-term answer at right back. After a rocky start to 2014, Powell blossomed into one of the most dynamic young talents in Major League Soccer. A full season of Powell at his 2014 best (or better) is mouth-watering. Plain and simple: We can all collectively exhale. Powell is a Timber until further notice, meaning he’ll either be here for a very long time, or will be sold to a European club for an exorbitant amount.
Jose Adolfo “Trencito” Valencia officially sold to Club Olimpio de Bahia Blanca (Argentina). El Trencito has been on loan in South America since the beginning of 2014, scoring 11 goals in 33 appearances for two clubs. The move, worth a reported seven-figures, represents yet another great piece of business from Gavin Wilkinson. Yes, Valencia is a big talent, but so are Maxi Urruti and Fanendo Adi. The Timbers simply moved on, while collecting a very nice chunk of change. Plain and simple: Here’s the kicker: Portland retains his MLS rights. Collecting a million-plus dollars while retaining the exclusive right to sign him if he ever decides to come back to MLS is downright brilliant.
Monday was a busy day for the Timbers FO, but they surely aren’t done yet. We will provide updates on player movement as they happen.
Onward, Rose City