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Rumors: Attack upgrade could come soon for Timbers

Current form won’t stop Timbers from splashing the transfer market this summer

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Coach Gio Savarese exits tunnel to start second half. Kris Lattimore

UPDATE 7/6 2:45PM: Jamie Goldberg is reporting that the deal for Conechny is done with an eventual purchase fee of $4 million. We’ll update again once we get an official announcement.

UPDATE: As reported by Paul Tenorio, the deal for Conechny will be a loan with an option to buy at the end of the season. Conechny’s buy price would be too high for YTF, so he will either take up a DP slot, or could be bought down with TAM if the Timbers exercise an option to extend the loan to next summer.

The Portland Timbers may have had only one loss since making the switch to the defensive-minded “Christmas Tree” formation--and that loss was in early April--but rumor has it that Giovanni Savarese is looking to acquire more attacking talent when the league’s Summer Transfer Window opens on July 10.

The way the season has gone, it might be easy to forget that Savarese came to Portland not just as a winner but a winner who coached an attacking, offensive-minded style. The “Each match is a final” mantra Savarese preaches has meant sacrificing offensive tidiness for results. The defensive approach has yielded wins, but that’s not the shared philosophy that made Savarese the Timbers choice to succeed Caleb Porter.

Giovanni Savarese
Giovanni Savarese
Bennett Dewan

When introducing Savarese to the media in January, Timbers GM/President of Soccer Gavin Wilkinson laid out the team’s criteria in searching for a new coach. “They had to be attack minded,” Wilkinson said, “They had to be possession oriented.”

These characteristics were, according to Wilkinson, were “non-negotiable,” yet in the words of Dennis Green, the Timbers are not who we thought they were. The team’s possession (47% on the season) and offensive numbers are reflective of a counterattacking team. Which, in fairness, is what Portland is.

Which is not necessarily a bad thing. It has yielded good results for the team, but the team has struggled to score goals from build-up with the offense sputtering in the opponent’s half of the field. Hence, why an additional creative player up top could be the key to unlock an opponent’s parked bus.

Unpleasant as it is to consider, the mystery attacker could potentially be part of the long term succession plan for Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco, aged 32 and 30, respectively.

The Timbers may have to shift some resources in order to work a deal, depending on the cash factor. International spots, however, won’t be an issue; the team currently has eight international slots and only six players filling them.

It’s unlikely, but not impossible, that Portland would use a Designated Player slot to bring in the new attacker. The team currently has their three DP slots tied up in Blanco, Valeri, and Fanendo Adi. However, a trade or a suffusion of allocation money could pay down one of their contracts to take them out of the DP threshold.

When it comes to transactions, its helpful to remember that Portland has a history of finding unique ways to make them happen whether it’s trading Kosuke Kimura for a Homegrown player or using the expansion draft as a competitive advantage. Perhaps most importantly, the team has the resources primarily from the Nagbe trade.

One possible target for this deal (via Argentinian journalist Diego Paulich) is Tomas Conechny, an Argentinian youth international on the cusp of the first team in San Lorenzo (which is where the Timbers acquired Sebastian Blanco from before the 2017 season). Valued at over $2m USD by Transfermarkt, it seems like Conechny’s signing would have to make use of the Youth Transfer Fund — MLS’s new mechanism intended for teams to sign exciting, young international prospects who could later be sold at a profit.

Conechny’s signing could be announced as soon as tomorrow, so stay tuned for more details in the immediate future.

What do you think about these rumors? Where else do you think the Timbers should upgrade this summer, and who (if anyone) would you let go to make it happen? Let us know in the comments!