Merritt Paulson appeared on The Best Soccer Show this week to talk about the Timbers' preseason and other matters. Paulson was especially enlightening when talking about the off-season rumors connecting the Timbers to Mikkel Diskerud.
Paulson confirmed that the Timbers had been targeting Diskerud and that he was interested in coming to Portland because of his relationship with Caleb Porter, his coach during Olympic qualifying. In spite of the United States' failure to qualify, Diskerud had a good experience playing under Caleb Porter. Paulson also said that the Timbers believed they had a deal worked out with Diskerud, but on the verge of signing him "things changed," Paulson said and the Timbers would have had to sign Diskerud as a Designated Player to bring him to Portland.
Ultimately, although the club was excited about Diskerud, neither MLS nor the Timbers were crazy about the idea of making Diskerud a DP. Paulson pointed out that Diskerud is a young player, still very much a project, so when they were looking at spending much more money than they expected, they decided to instead sign a player with more experience who played the same position. One can only assume he was referring to the Timbers newest DP and attacking central midfielder Diego Valeri.
All of this makes it a bit more clear what Paulson was talking about when he tweeted this:
Always disappointing when deals that were done fall apart. Crazy biz but that's the biz we are in. Next option may make more sense anyway.— Merritt Paulson (@MerrittPaulson) December 17, 2012
In spite of some speculation from other Timbers media that this might be in reference to a deal with a defender falling through, it seems obvious now that it was about Diskerud and that the "next option" was Valeri.
Although Timbers fans were understandably disappointed when it became clear that the deal with Diskerud would not be happening, it seems like the club made a solid choice. The Timbers have spent two seasons without a consistent, creative, attacking presence in the midfield and our offense has often suffered for it. Plus, the club has made a couple big mistakes in player acquisitions the past two seasons, so they needed to get this one right. Diskerud is talented and has tons of promise, but at only 22 he is still, as Paulson said, a development player. Signing him as a DP would have been a risky move and left the team's hopes for a better 2013 resting largely on a young, still fairly unproven player at central attacking mid.
Meanwhile, while Valeri's career has had some ups and downs, he's more experienced and more of a proven quantity. If he doesn't work out, he's with the Timbers on a low-risk loan deal, so he'll go back to Argentina. However, if he can consistently show the creativity and drive he showed in the first preseason friendly, this looks like a really smart decision and a better use of their money..