Commentor Dan Brunell is back with another look through some South American prospects. This time he is giving us the skinny on the defensive end of the pitch. Check it out and don't forget to give the man a rec for his troubles.
First, I was overwhelmed by the response to the first article on forwards. Thank you.
Second, I think the Timbers have struck on a solid transfer policy in South America. They are targeting older players - 26 years old and above - whose time at their respective clubs are drawing to a close. Players who have young families that wouldn't mind moving to the U.S. not just for paychecks but for a better quality of life for their family in terms of safety, education, and post-career opportunities. There are probably a few dozen very good players in Argentina and Brazil who are in this sort of situation that we could look and possibly bring in every year.
So as I promised here are some defenders that come to mind as potential targets. Again, I am trying to be realistic to where the Timbers are in the market - I don't see us spending more than two million Euros on a defender. So that rules out defenders like Dede who will probably going to Europe shortly for decent money.
I've also tried to keep in mind defenders who Caleb might like. Defenders are comfortable with the ball at their feet, who can pass from the back, and who play with a high level of intelligence.
With that in mind here are some players I might look at.
19 years old
Centerback - Club Universidad de Chile - Chilean
Value on TransferMarket.com: 300,000 Euro (bet he goes for at least two million in the next few years.)
He is probably the best defensive South American prospect I've seen in recent years. The kid is the next Pique: Big, strong, good in the air, smart with the ball, great with his feet, fantastic runner from the back, and a really great passer. He will go to Europe in the next few years and will be starting for Champions League side in five years. I'm certain of it.
To me, he is the ideal Porter centerback. He has everything. The problem is that he is also the ideal centerback for a lot of clubs in Europe.That said, he still has a few years to develop and raise his stock. Why not do that in MLS?
29 years old
Centerback - Universidad de Chile - Chilean
Value on TransferMarket.com: 1,500,000 Euro
Universidad de Chile has a remarkable corp of central defenders in Lichnovsky, Gonzalez, Ponce, and Jose Rojas. They usually rotate out a three man defense with Rojas on the left, Lichnovsky in the middle, and Gonzalez on the right. Every game with these three is a defensive clinic in how a three back system should operate.
I really like Rojas but because he is a 'one club' man and team captain, I don't see him leaving. I think Gonzalez could be signed for the right price however. He checks a lot of the Porter's boxes in being smart with the ball, caring the ball forward, passing, and possession. He is also decent in the air and has a very accurate right foot. He could slip in easily for right back if we needed him. For those who are familiar with Scottish football, he reminds me of a more physically gifted, right footed version of Charlie Mulgrew. Down to the wickedly accurate long range shot.
32 years old
Centerback- Estudiantes de La Plata - Argentine
Value on TransferMarket.com: 700,000 Euro
If we're going to do business with Estudiantes, let's just go for a double transfer. Re is a really solid centerback who one of the best distributors out of the back in their league. My only knock is that he would be on the short side - 5'10" - compared to other MLS centerbacks. However, he ticks a lot of boxes that Caleb has stated he wants in a centerback. However, his position at the club is a lot more stable than Fernandez's is; which means it would take that much more to pry him away from the club. If the rumors about Fernandez's deal souring is true, that might be a difficult task.
33 years old
Centerback - Racing Club - Uruguayan
Value on TransferMarket.com: 150,000 Euro
Out of the players on this list, I think Miglionico is the most attainable and might surprise people the same way Kah did last year. He returned to Argentina last year after spending six years in Serie A with sides like Lecca, Livorno, and Sampdoria. He really hasn't embedded himself with Racing Club since returning to Argentina last year. Racing has a number of younger defenders. This means Miglonico and Fernando Ortiz might be the odd men out. I see Ortiz just retiring, Miglionico has a few years left.
He is a solid centerback. He is one of the best aerial threats in Argentina. He good at reading balls in the air and seems to be always in the right place. Like many players who played in Serie A for some time, Miglionico is astute at reading the game and comfortable with the ball at feet. His passing is also decent - not spectacular - for a central defender. I certainly wouldn't give a DP contract but might be worth a near-DP contract.
Sidenote: Before I get into their players, the Brazilian top flight this last year was insane. Six points separated the ninth and eighteenth placed team. When the chaos was over, two huge clubs in Fluminense - the defending league champions - and Vasco da Gama - one of the most historic clubs in Brazil - were relegated. To give a EPL equivalent, this would be like Liverpool and Everton being relegated in the same season.
30 years old
Centerback - Vasco da Gama - Brazilian
Value on TransferMarket.com: 750,000 Euro
Unlike Fluminense, I don't think Vasco da Gama can keep their squad intact when they drop. Vasco definitely has to retool their midfield and defense. They took chances on too many older players - Juninho, Cris, Guiñazú - and it burned them. Yet, they don't have the resources of other clubs to completely retool their roster without selling one or two players like their young forward Andre.
One of the players who might be on his way out is Renato Silva. Silva is a good all around centerback. He ticks all of Porter's boxes: good with the ball at his feet, great passer, good in the air, and a smart player. I would need to watch more tape on him - I only watched maybe one or two Vasco games this year - but I think he could be our poor man's version of Alberto Carlos. Definitely worth looking at and offering a DP contract to.
31 years old
Centerback - Cruzeiro - Uruguayan
Value on TransferMarket.com: 500,000 Euro
Cruzeiro won the title this year with a lot of great emerging talent. Victorino was a big part of that. Normally partnered with Dede, Victorino put in quality performance after quality performance this year. A good all-round player Victorino has the skills and athletic ability to play fullback or a defensive midfielder in a pinch. Good in the air, great passer, high footballing IQ, comfortable with the ball, and can lace a shot if needed. Not only that, he has a wicked, powerful distant free kick. He also was a part of the Uruguay team that made it to the last four in the 2010 World Cup.
I think our ability to get him depends on if Cruzeiro sells Dede. If they sell Dede, I could see them keeping Victorino to partner up him with one of their young centerbacks. If they keep Dede, I could see Victorino becoming available to open up space on the roster for younger centerbacks.
I would definitely make a DP offer for this guy. Not only could I see him making an impact with the Timbers, I could see him from day one being the best centerbacks in the league.
If I had to realistically pick one, I think I would go with Victorino. Second choice would be German Re. I would love to get Igor but that's just not in the cards.