It has been long rumored and recently confirmed, but now we know for sure that Jorge Villafana is leaving the Portland Timbers for Mexico's Club Santos Laguna. The Timbers put out a press release today announcing the sale and making the whole thing official.
With rumors of a transfer fee in the high six figures changing hands, the loss of Villafana should net the Timbers a decent chunk of allocation money, in addition to freeing up the moderate amount of salary cap space occupied by the left back. While no replacement for one of the best left-backs in MLS, the move does give the team plenty of flexibility to fill the void left by Villafana's departure.
The move should also work out well for Villafana, both in terms of a solid payday, one he was never likely to get in MLS, and coming into a team that will make use of his skills. Santos, managed by Diego Valeri's former teammate and, later, manager at Lanus, Luis Zubeldia, tends to make heavy use of their fullbacks in the attack and has been somewhat unsettled at the left back position during the 2015 Apertura Tournament, giving Villafana a definite chance to unseat the current incumbent Cesar Ibanez for the Clausura.
During his two years with the Timbers, Villafana made 58 appearances for the Timbers in MLS regular and post season play, starting all but two. In that time he scored a pair of goals and notched seven assists, including five in this year's MLS Cup run. A part of the massive defensive turnaround that saw the Timbers go from one of the worst defenses in MLS in 2014 to one of the best in 2015, Villafana will be most remembered in Portland for his lock-down performance in the MLS Cup, one that had many calling him the Cup MVP, when he took Best XI winger Ethan Finley out of the match entirely and helped to neutralize one of the league's most potent attacks, holding the Crew to just a single shot on goal.
The Timbers' press release:
TIMBERS TRANSFER JORGE VILLAFAÑA TO LIGA MX CLUB SANTOS LAGUNA
Defender departs Portland following two seasons, 52 league appearances
PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers today announced the transfer of defender Jorge Villafaña to five-time Liga MX champions Santos Laguna of Mexico. Per league and club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.
"With the current structure in MLS, this transfer is necessary in order for the club to acquire allocation dollars to keep the core group of players together as much as possible," said Gavin Wilkinson, general manager of the Timbers. "Jorge has been a tremendous player for us, and we wish him great success in this mutually beneficial move."
Villafaña, 26, made 52 regular-season appearances for the Timbers over two seasons from 2014-2015. Originally joining the club in a trade with Chivas USA on Dec. 12, 2013, Villafaña logged two goals and seven assists for the Timbers, making an MLS-career high 33 appearances (all starts) during the 2015 season.
"This was a win-win for Jorge and for our club; it was an opportunity that neither one of us could pass up," said Caleb Porter, head coach of the Timbers. "We wish Jorge all the best and thank him for his contributions to our championship."
An MLS veteran who joined Chivas USA in 2007 as a 17-year-old, Villafaña has made 138 career MLS appearances (113 starts), logging nine goals and 13 assists in his career. Helping Chivas USA to postseason appearances in 2008 and 2009, he helped guide the Timbers to their first MLS Cup title in 2015, starting all but one match at left back for the club.
Based in Torreón, Mexico, Santos Laguna has won five Liga MX titles, most recently winning the 2015 Liga MX Torneo Clausura championship, as well as the 2014 Copa MX tournament – Mexico’s domestic league cup. The club finished the 2015 Torneo Apertura season in 15th place, but did reach the knockout stage of the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League tournament, where they will face the LA Galaxy in the two-leg, quarterfinal round.