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The versatility of Jorge Villafaña

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The left back has been class all season and his assist to Niezgoda is just another example of his quality.

Real Salt Lake v Portland Timbers Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Portland Timbers walloped the LA Galaxy for the second time in the MLS 2020 regular season on Wednesday. The Timbers put on an attacking show as they sliced LA up over and over and jumped out to a three-goal lead at halftime. The Galaxy showed signs of life, scoring only 17 seconds into the second half, but Portland quickly dashed Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s hopes of a comeback and went on to win 5-2.

There was plenty to talk about after the big win. You could highlight the Timbers’ ability to slaughter LA repeatedly, Niezgoda’s opportunity to score the Timbers’ first-ever hat trick, Yimmi Chara’s four assists or Andy Polo’s FIFA finish. But I am not going to highlight any of that in this article. I am going to acknowledge a defender’s performance.

In the sixth minute of the match, Yimmi Chara played a simple leading pass to Jorge Villafaña. Villafaña ran onto it and, without taking a touch to settle, swung in an inch-perfect pass to the forehead of Jaroslaw Niezgoda. The Pole’s finish stole all the plaudits because it was absolutely clinical and extremely impressive.

Villafaña’s cross matched the finish for its pure quality. The pass is a work of art to the eye and is best examined when you rewatch the goal and focus on the assist. But the statistics show the impressive nature of the assist - Fbref.com listed the chance as 0.055 xA.

Villafaña continued his good performance after the assist. He was extremely involved in the rout of the Galaxy and recorded 82 touches, his highest total this season. Villafaña also had his third-best passing game of the season, completing 84.8% of his passes while contributing two shot-creating actions. He also made three tackles and five blocks.

This is performance is not surprising. Villafaña has been a constant at the left back spot for the Timbers this year. Portland Timbers FC has played 24 matches in this condensed season and Villafaña has played in 16 (15 starts). He is the definition of a modern full back and is integral to the Timbers on both defense and offense.

Villafaña has made 48 blocks, 47 tackles, and 11 interceptions. There have only been three matches in which Villafaña didn’t make at least one block. The same can be said of his record for making tackles.

Villafaña is one of those players that has the stamina to become part of the attack, but recognizes he is also needed on defense and reliably tracks back. He has put in some crucial sliding challenges in the box and cut out counter-attacks that looked like they would certainly result in a goal for the opposition.

Despite his defensive prowess and importance to the Timbers, Villafaña is very disciplined. He has only ever been shown 12 yellow cards. These 12 cautions were gifted to him across 14 seasons with three different teams. He has only seen red once in his professional career.

Also, Villafaña is a menace offensively. He displayed his quality with the assist to Niezgoda against the Galaxy, but he has been a consistent threat all year. This season he has 14 shot-creating actions and six goal-creating actions in his 16 matches played.

Villafaña actually has a chance to surpass his total assists for a season. He provided a career-high five assists in 2019. That season he started 23 matches and played a total of 24 matches. The left back could still potentially start at least four more matches, including the first round of the playoffs.

Villafaña has been a consistent threat attacking and a solid presence at the back for the Timbers. This has been a strange season and everything is constantly changing, but Villafaña has been as close to a constant as we could hope for. When people speak about the Timbers, Diego Valeri and Diego Chara are usually the first two names out of their mouths. Don’t get me wrong — they are great and deserve al praise. But the fun thing about the Timbers is that they have so many key cogs on the team that make it tick the way it did on Wednesday. Villafaña has proved that he is one of those important pieces and can be a difference maker when it matters most.

Stats retrieved from Fbref.com