The Portland Timbers are bringing in another reinforcement to help shore up their depth in defensive midfield and on the backline.
A source with knowledge of the deal tells Stumptown Footy that the Timbers have signed defensive midfielder and centerback Bill Tuiloma through the remainder of the 2017 season with an option to keep Tuiloma in Portland thereafter.
Tuiloma, 22, comes to the Timbers by way of Olympique de Marseille, with whom the Kiwi international has been a mainstay in the developmental system since 2013. Playing almost exclusively for Marseille’s second team during his professional career with the exception of a 2015 loan to Strasbourg, Tuiloma saw almost 2000 minutes in 22 appearances for Les Phoceens’ second team last season.
A centerback and holding midfielder, Tuiloma has also become a regular with New Zealand’s national team over the last two years. Although he did not earn a start, Tuiloma was the first substitute off the bench in all three of the All Whites’ Confederations Cup matches this summer, and has registered a dozen starts for the All Whites in his senior national-team career.
Tuiloma figures to step into a depth role in both central midfield and on the backline for the Timbers. Where he settles in the pecking order as among the likes of Amobi Okugo, Ben Zemanski, and Lawrence Olum will likely determine how long Tuiloma sticks in the Rose City. But with the rash of injuries, suspensions, and international call-ups that the Timbers have weathered thus far this season, additional depth is certainly welcome in the Rose City.
As a deal through the end of the season with an option to keep him on longer, the Timbers are bringing Tuiloma in to see whether he is ready to step up from Marseille’s farm system and Oceania international competition into MLS. As such, the move is zero-risk for the Timbers and an opportunity for Tuiloma to turn his budding success with New Zealand into a foothold in first-team club football.