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Confirmations and Rumors: Player Acquisition Update

Bennett Dewan

Portland Timbers General Manager Gavin Wilkinson has been very forthcoming this offseason about what to expect from the transfer window. Come January 31st, that transfer windows will close in many countries, including most of Europe and Mexico. With the Timbers’ biggest move of the offseason yet to be made, that deadline is coming fast. By this time next week, the club may have come to an agreement on the most expensive DP signing in club history.

More on that in a minute. Here are the roster moves that the Timbers’ front office announced officially this week:

  • Steve Clark is re-signed.
  • Andres Flores is re-signed.
  • Tomas Conechny returns for another season, on loan from Argentinan Superliga club San Lorenzo.
  • Eryk Williamson’s loan to Portugese first-division team Santa Clara is over, and he is back in Portland, training with the first team.
  • French centerback Claude Dielna is signed with the team on a one-year contract after playing with New England Revolution during the 2018 season. He is a TAM player, meaning his wages are over $500,000.

No big surprises there. Williamson should have a real chance of seeing first-team minutes this year, and could compete with David Guzman for the number eight position, and possibly come in at Blanco or Valeri’s positions, as he was effective there with T2 last season. Conechny has a high upside. Clark and Flores are great depth. Claude Dielna will compete for the left centerback spot.

Which leaves the team short a right back, and that attacking DP Gavin Wilkinson has been mentioning since mid-December.

In his most recent interview on Tuesday, Wilkinson said that the team is in discussions with two potential young attacking players. He was clear to say that they are targeting attacking players who can fill multiple positions up top, and that they are committed to giving Jeremy Ebobisse every opportunity to continue to develop at striker this year, while ensuring competition and depth. He added that, if one of the players is acquired, it would be the most expensive signing in MLS Timbers’ history.

While Wilkinson did not reveal the identity of these targets, there have been reports of who they might be.

Paul Tenorio, writer at The Athletic, reported last Friday that the Timbers were pursuing two possible young DP attackers. The first, an unknown player in Mexico; the other an Argentine playing for Greek club AEK Athens, on loan from Italian Series A side Roma named Ezequiel Ponce.

On Wednesday, ESPN writer Jeff Carlisle tweeted that the other player is Julian Quinones, who plays for Tigres of Liga MX, and that there may be one other target.

Wilkinson said Tuesday that the only other positional need is at right back. With the departure of Alvas Powell to FC Cincinnati, he says that they are looking for an offensive right back who can have more of an influence in the attacking third. Peter Doerr of German magazine Bild reported on the 21st that Giovanni Saverese wanted Giulio Donati of Bundesliga club Mainz 05, and offered a generous contract. Donati, considered an “expensive reserve player” in the article, declined, they reported. Donati said that there was no place for him at Mainz, and hoped to be transferred to a first-league team in England, Spain, or back to Italy. He has yet to receive an offer from a European club, Doerr reported.

With most of Europe and Mexico’s mid-season transfer windows closing next week, the outcome of the Donati, Ponce and Quinones offers may play out soon, as their ability to transfer to those other (possibly more desirable) leagues dwindle. The MLS preseason transfer window remains open much longer, however.

Meanwhile, the Timbers will wrap up preseason training in Portland and head to Costa Rica next Wednesday, where they spend a week training and playing scrimmages. That leaves one final question: Will these scrimmages be streamed?

Here is Wilkinson’s interview in its entirety, with thanks to Oregonian Timbers/Thorns beat reporter Jamie Goldberg: