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Rumor: Julio Cascante to Portland?

MLS: CONCACAF Champions League-Deportivo Saprissa at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Hot stove? Hardly. But it’s something.

Reports out of Costa Rica are indicating 24 year-old Saprissa centerback Julio Cascante may be headed to MLS.

Cascante, if you remember, was connected to the Timbers last spring during the search for a new starting centerback to replace the injured Gbenga Arokoyo.

That signing, of course, turned out to be Larrys Mabiala, but U.S.-based reports at the time indicated the Timbers were playing a longer game with Cascante.

As of now we don’t yet have anything solid re-connecting the Timbers to Cascante, but there’s a good amount of smoke that it may be the case. Most directly, La Nación, one of the largest outlets in Costa Rica, slipped in as an aside that the Timbers are a possible destination. This is probably best approached with some caution in light of the passing nature of the reference, but it could be an indication that Cascante has not fallen off the Timbers’ radar since last spring.

Less directly — although arguably more intriguing — is Merritt Paulson’s tease at the beginning of this speech at Diego Valeri’s MVP presentation on Monday that Gavin Wilkinson was absent because he was flying back from Costa Rica.

That timing is interesting because Cascante started and played 90 minutes on Sunday in Saprissa’s 1-0 win over Herediano. To be sure, there are multiple players on Saprissa and Herediano that Wilkinson could have been looking at, but the timing of his trip, the game, and these reports all fit very conveniently.

Known as a young, aggressive (at times overly so) defender, Cascante fits the mold of what we know the Timbers are looking for in a central defense signing. Cascante has become a regular starter for Saprissa this season and has lingered on the fringes of the Costa Rican national team setup since late 2015. If the Timbers are looking for a young centerback who can step in and play MLS minutes immediately, but also has upside, Cascante would make some sense.

Still, because we don’t yet have anything that is both recent and solid connecting the Timbers to Cascante, this is far from a sure thing. But there are enough stars aligning that it’s certainly one to keep an eye on.

UPDATE: Teletica Deportes, another major Costa Rican outlet, has chimed in and linked Cascante to “interest” from the Timbers. More smoke.