UPDATE: The Timbers have also announced Melano’s loan. Check out their press release below.
After several days of rumors, the loan of Lucas Melano to Club Athletico Belgrano has been made official, with the Argentine side releasing the news earlier today. The loan will run through the end of the year and comes with an option to buy, according to the release.
For the player, the move marks Melano’s return to his boyhood club where he first started out as a professional; while for the Timbers, offloading Melano opens up a designated player slot that could be used to bring in a new, high level winger that the team has been rumored to be pursuing.
During his one and a half seasons with the Timbers, Melano made 50 appearances in the regular season and playoffs, scoring five goals and providing nine assists.
After arriving in July of 2015, Melano proved to be a difference maker on the wing during his first season with the club, finding his groove just in time for the Timbers to make their MLS Cup winning run through the playoffs. Melano left his mark in those six matches, scoring the Timbers final goal against FC Dallas and assisting on Rodney Wallace’s game-winning header in the final against Columbus.
The following season, however, saw Melano take a step back rather than the step forward that the Timbers were banking on. Despite several matches that saw Melano take over the game from his position out on the wing, the young Argentine’s contributions to the side were streaky at best and his production in front of goal fell off dramatically, taking only eight more shots than in 2015 despite playing twice as many minutes.
Melano, 23, might yet turn into the player that the Timbers had hoped for, but thanks to Major League Soccer’s roster restrictions, there was no way for the Timbers to spend the time and cap space necessary to see that happen.
The Timbers’ press release:
TIMBERS LOAN MIDFIELDER LUCAS MELANO TO ARGENTINE SIDE ATLÉTICO BELGRANOArgentine midfielder to join Club Atlético Belgrano on year-long loan
PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers have loaned midfielder Lucas Melano to Argentine Primera División side Club Atlético Belgrano through Dec. 31, 2017, it was announced today.
“In loaning Lucas to Belgrano, we are looking to place him in a situation that can help him succeed,” said Gavin Wilkinson, general manager and president of soccer for the Timbers. “There is always a transitional risk with any foreign player, and that is magnified with young players. The 2016 season was difficult for Lucas, however we believe he is a talented player, and he was a crucial contributor to the Timbers winning MLS Cup in 2015. We expect him to regain his form at his home team in Belgrano, and we wish him all the best.”
Since joining the Timbers midway through the 2015 MLS campaign, Melano, 23, has made 44 regular-season appearances (35 starts), recording four goals and eight assists in 2,993 minutes played. Additionally, Melano made six appearances (4 starts) during the 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs, scoring the series-deciding goal against FC Dallas in the Western Conference Championship and recording an assist on the game-winning goal in a 2-1 win against Columbus Crew SC in the 2015 MLS Cup.
Melano began his professional career with Belgrano, earning his first-team debut on March 17, 2012, after working his way through the club’s youth ranks. Melano recorded seven goals in 44 career league appearances for Belgrano, helping the club qualify for the 2013 Copa Sudamericana competition with a third-place finish in the 2012-13 Torneo Inicial season.
Prior to joining the Timbers during the 2015 MLS campaign, the Hernando, Argentina, native logged 42 appearances for Argentinian Primera División club Lanús (2013-2015), scoring eight goals while helping the side to a championship in the 2013 Copa Sudamericana as one of the tournament’s leading scorers. In his final season with the club, Melano led Lanús in scoring, recording five goals in 14 games before being acquired by Portland.
Transaction: Portland Timbers loan midfielder Lucas Melano to Club Atlético Belgrano through Dec. 31, 2017, on Jan. 9, 2017.