Portland Timbers Preseason: Figuring Out Gaston Fernandez

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Preseason has provided a chance to learn a little more about the Timbers' big off-season signing.

The arrival of Gaston Fernandez was preceded and accompanied by no small amount of speculation about exactly what type of player the Portland Timbers were getting and where he would fit into their formation. A pair of preseason appearances may begin to provide some clarity.

In the first two preseason matches, Fernandez has played at the front of the midfield triangle, but with lots of freedom, so he sometimes played farther forward with Maximiliano Urruti and other times appeared to switch places with Darlington Nagbe. From the midfield, he took on the role of playmaker, often attempting to spring his teammates free and get them behind the opposing back line.

In particular, he showed a good connection with Urruti. Both of the Timbers goals against Houston began with Fernandez and in remarkably similar fashion, with Urruti getting behind the defense and chasing down a pass from Fernandez The first time Urruti laid the ball off to Will Johnson and the second time he kept it for himself and slotted it home.

All of this has provided a clearer picture of Fernandez and his style of play. He's relaxed with the ball at his feet and has the vision and ability to pick out a great pass, which has allowed him to set up his teammates for some great chances. There's still plenty of room for speculation though, as Fernandez's play so far has been a little reminiscent of another Argentinean player on the Timbers' roster.

When Diego Valeri has fully recovered from his off-season hernia surgery, he will step back into his spot in the midfield. Fernandez may then be pushed forward into center forward spot where Urruti has been playing, although with those two clicking and Urruti having a very good preseason, it would be a shame to push him out of the line-up. Either of them could conceivably play out to the side, but both seem better suited to playing in the middle. Based on preseason, it looks like however the line-up shakes out, the Timbers front four may be given a lot of freedom to roam, which might be a viable solution to having a players whose roles overlap.

Fernandez has shown his quality already. Any lingering questions about where exactly we'll see him playing will probably remain until Valeri makes his return to the team.

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