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Forest for The Trees: Yimmi Chara is stepping up

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In Sebastian Blanco’s absence, one of Portland’s newest Designated Players is showing the signs of coming good.

SOCCER: SEP 19 MLS - Portland Timbers at San Jose Earthquakes Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Quick, guess that Portland Timbers Designated Player:

Player A: 8 goals & 4 assists, 2,776 minutes

Player B: 3 goals & 5 assists, 2,259 minutes

Player C: 3 goals & 3 assists, 703 minutes

Those are the statistics for three players in their first full season as a DP for the Timbers, according to FBRef.com. Their identities? Player A is Sebastian Blanco in 2017. Player B is the now departed Lucas Melano in 2016.

Player C? That’s Yimmi Chara in 2020. He has already matched Melano’s 2016 goal tally and nearly met Blanco’s 2017 assist tally — all with significantly less time on the field.

After taking some time to settle into his new surroundings, the younger Chara brother is showing signs that he is turning the corner and starting to validate his DP designation. And with Sebastian Blanco sidelined for the remainder of the season, Chara’s emergence is all the more important to the Timbers’ success in 2020.

Let’s take a quick look at how Yimmi’s recent contributions — both on the scoresheet and off of it — suggest that he’s turning the corner and finally stepping up for the Timbers:

All we really want are goals

Through the first eight regular season games of the season, we were wondering if Portland had made another miss at a DP signing.

Yimmi Chara was slow to get started in a Timbers shirt. He had shown the signs of why Portland wanted to sign him with his tenacity, pace, and technical abilities on the field, but through the early going of the season and through all of Orlando his on-field impact was negligible.

But then, Yimmi started to put it all together. First, he did this:

Then — and most importantly — he did this:

We are finally starting to see what we have been waiting for from Yimmi Chara. He has started to do the job that is asked of an attacking Designated Player in scoring goals, and it’s lifting the team.

That goal against Seattle specifically displays the on-field play and production that Y. Chara is starting to exhibit. He begins the play out wide, starts to drift in, and when he realizes there is a turnover opportunity he seizes on it to blow by his defender and get on the end of a ball to score. It may seem simple, but the ability to recognize and capitalize on a chance like that is significant to the Timbers. The goal against San Jose won the side a point, and the goal against Seattle won the game.

When you chip in his assists, Yimmi Chara has either scored or assisted in four of his last six appearances. It directly corresponds with Portland’s recent upturn in form, as Portland won five of those games — the outlier being the aforementioned draw. With Sebastian Blanco’s absence, the missing production needed to come from somewhere. So far, it looks like Chara is the one of the players stepping up to fill the void.

It’s not full-season DP-worthy numbers yet, but it looks like we may be on that track. And Yimmi has been adding even more to the squad, especially when you consider...

That Patented Chara Work Rate

This is one of the prettiest goals Portland has scored all season, and there’s one specific reason we should watch it again (in addition to it being so dang impressive):

It’s highlighted here because of the work Yimmi Chara does in the buildup. Yimmi does the hard work of receiving the ball, holding it up to bring more attackers into the play, and then laying off a dangerous pass for another attacker. He does all of that not once, but twice in a single goal build-up.

That’s not stuff that will necessarily show up on the scoresheet, but it’s just as important. Chara is showing that he can be a dangerous component of the attack even when not scoring, tilting the game in the Timbers’ favor in order to create opportunities for the team to score.

The underlying numbers back that up as well. According to FBRef.com, in his last six appearances (not counting last night’s start against San Jose) Yimmi Chara has 16 actions that have led to shooting opportunities, including 10 completed live-ball passes that have led to a shot attempt. Yimmi’s work is leading to more players taking shots, which will most likely lead to more players scoring goals.

It also doesn’t hurt that he’s out here nutmegging defenders and embarrassing grown men:

There’s no salient point here. I just wanted to highlight that taste of the sauce that Yimmi Chara can bring to the party in the attack. It’s impressive stuff, and it’s emblematic of a player who is building their confidence and finding their form.


Is the above solely enough for Yimmi to justify his price tag? Decidedly not. The aforementioned Lucas Melano is widely considered a Designated Player bust after putting up similar numbers and not living up to his expectations. If Yimmi does not continue his upward trajectory and the goals and assists start to run dry, by the end of the season he may be considered something similar.

But as we enter the final chunk of this bizarre 2020 season, the returns are encouraging. Chara has been looking more dangerous, and he’s starting to put up the numbers to back it up. We are seeing now the attacking dimensions he is adding to the team and how it’s elevating those around him. With a glut of upcoming matches, his newfound production will be all the more essential to keeping the team at the top of the Western Conference.

And while nothing can replace the Sebastian Blanco sized hole on the field (or in our hearts), Yimmi Chara continuing to step up in a big way could go a long way to keeping the Timbers in contention for yet another piece of hardware before this year is all said and done.