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Official: Lucas Melano returns to the Portland Timbers from loan

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On loan for nearly two years, Lucas Melano is reunited with the Timbers

Bennett Dewan

What seemed impossible not all that long ago became a reality earlier this morning when the Portland Timbers officially announced that Lucas Melano has returned to the Rose City, ending his loan to Estudiantes of Argentina’s Superliga. This followed a separate loan deal where Melano spent a year at Atletico Belgrano (also in Argentina) in 2017.

The Timbers and Melano have both been mum on the circumstances that led to the Argentinian taking consecutive loan spells. It was rumored, but never confirmed, that Melano clashed with former Timbers coach Caleb Porter. When Porter left the Timbers by mutual consent, the only remaining hurdle seemed to be Melano’s willingness to return to Portland — a concern that Timbers GM Gavin Wilkinson addressed in the club’s announcement:

“Despite numerous options in South America and Europe, Lucas showed a strong desire to return to Portland,” said Gavin Wilkinson, general manager and president of soccer for the Timbers. “We welcome him back to the club and look forward to his contributions.”

Even though Melano has been a member of the Timbers roster since first joining the club in 2015, some moves were necessary to make sure Portland’s roster would conform to the league’s roster requirements.

Specifically: To take on Melano with his current salary ( $830,000.00, base salary; total compensation of $1,050,000.00) Portland needed to have an available designated player (DP) slot. The Timbers, like all MLS clubs, have three DP slots, but all three slots were occupied — until Fanendo Adi left. While on loan, Melano’s DP status didn’t count against the Timbers. And, because Melano was on loan, the Timbers were free to use his international player slot.

It’s unclear when Melano will break into the lineup for the Timbers or what is a reasonable expectation of a now 25-year-old player arriving with the Timbers having just under three months remaining in the season. There may be some rust: Melano’s last action was in the Copa Libertadores final, where he scored the game-winning goal.

FORWARD LUCAS MELANO RETURNS TO TIMBERS FROM LOAN WITH ESTUDIANTES

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Timbers today announced that forward Lucas Melano has returned to the club from his loan with Superliga Argentina club Estudiantes.

“Despite numerous options in South America and Europe, Lucas showed a strong desire to return to Portland,” said Gavin Wilkinson, general manager and president of soccer for the Timbers. “We welcome him back to the club and look forward to his contributions.”

The Hernando, Argentina, native rejoins the Timbers after spending the past two seasons in the Argentine first division. Originally joining Atlético Belgrano on loan from the Timbers on Jan. 9, 2017, Melano made 35 league appearances (24 starts) across two seasons for Belgrano and Estudiantes, tallying three goals. Additionally, Melano made eight appearances (7 starts) in the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana for Estudiantes, posting two goals in the Copa Libertadores in the 2018 campaign.

“Lucas’ return gives us another quality attacking option and provides even greater competition within our group,” said Giovanni Savarese, head coach of the Timbers. “He is a high-quality player who won a championship with this club and is familiar with the surroundings here, and we look forwarding to welcoming him back to the group.”

Melano, 25, originally joined the Timbers midway through the 2015 campaign on July 17, 2015. Prior to returning to Argentina, Melano made 44 regular-season appearances (35 starts) in MLS play for the Timbers, recording four goals and eight assists. 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.

Where will Melano fit in? Will he get playing time in a suddenly deep striking pool that includes Samuel Armenteros, Dairon Asprilla, Tomas Conechny, and Jeremy Ebobisse?