Last week, I promised I’d hand out report cards today. Alas, alack, those will have to wait, because we’ve gotten a good bit of roster news, and I wanna talk about that.
1) Pretty much all the information I’ve got at this point comes from either last week’s end-of-year press conference, which Richard Farley recapped nicely in one long Twitter thread, Jake Zivin’s interview with GM Gavin Wilkinson, Tom Bogert’s article on mlssoccer.com, and Jeff Carlisle’s article on espn.com.
Those guys are actual, real-life reporters, so if you want to keep up with all the latest Timbers news, turn to them, not me. I don’t break news, I just react to it.
So let’s start reactin’.
2) Bogert’s article tells us the Timbers are sending center back Julio Cascante to the league’s newest expansion team, Austin FC, for $250,000 of allocation money.
I can live with this trade. Julio was here three years and had some good moments. He had a few starts here and there, but it was always due to injury or three-game weeks or some other extenuating circumstance. At no point did Julio outright win the title of first-choice starter, and if he couldn’t do it in three years, he probably never would have.
And anyway, according to Gavin’s YouTube interview, two players wanted be traded. I think it’s fair to assume Cascante’s one of those two players.
All things considered, I’d call this a good trade. The Timbers got some money and, if things fall just right, maybe Julio will win the starting spot for Austin FC, be in the XI for their very first game next March, and hold onto the job for years. Good luck to him, I say.
3) The other player who requested a trade? Probably fullback Marco Farfan, who’s going to LAFC for an undisclosed amount of allocation money.
I’m glad the team gave Marco the trade he wanted, but I wouldn’t call this a clear win for the Timbers.
Yes, it’s similar to the Cascante situation in that Farfan was never able to break through and become an every-game starter for the Timbers. But Farfan’s still only 22. He still has time to grow, improve, and possibly become a really good MLS starter. If that happens, LAFC will be the beneficiaries, not us.
Additionally, Farfan’s signed to a homegrown contract, which makes him really cheap, salary cap-wise. That’s a tough thing for the team to lose.
And finally, Farfan’s a local kid. He grew up in Gresham, went to Centennial High School, and, last I heard, still lives with his family. That’s not really a soccer reason to keep him here, but it does mean I’m a little sad to lose him.
Flip side? After 22 years living in Portland, I can totally understand Marco wanting to leave the nest. Maybe he’s ready to spread his wings a little.
Good luck, kid. I’ll miss you.
4) We also found out this past week that Felipe Mora and Larrys Mabiala are not currently under contract, but the team is working to fix that.
With Mora, the front office will be negotiating with Liga MX team Pumas, trying to turn Mora’s loan into a permanent contract. I have no idea how easy or hard this sort of thing is, but I hope we can pull it off. Mora’s proved to be a more-than-capable MLS striker and those could be in short supply in 2021. Jaroslaw Niezgoda will probably be rehabbing his torn ACL until mid-season, while Jeremy Ebobisse might be out of town a lot due to USMNT call ups. International soccer should be busy as hell next year, since 2020 was pretty much a wash. There will be World Cup qualifiers, the Olympics in Japan, and maybe a few other things as well. Jebo could be involved in much of that.
Regarding Mabiala, I have to assume he’ll keep his starting spot alongside Dario Zuparic next year, but Gavin said the team is looking for a young central defender. Would we be signing that player to compete for Mabiala’s spot? Or to compete with Bill Tuiloma for backup minutes? Only time will tell.
5) I was a little sad to learn that we haven’t re-signed fullback Chris Duvall or Swiss Army Knife Andres Flores. Sure, neither of them were vital cogs for the team, but both seemed like really good dudes, and those are nice to have in the locker room, especially if they’re at a good price. Also, Swiss Army Knives like Flores are always valuable. Remember that Seattle game in October when the Timbers were essentially all out of attackers, so they stuck Flores in there and hoped for the best? All he did was score a banger of an opening goal.
It wouldn’t surprise me if one or both of these guys end up signing last-minute, league-minimum contracts. There’s value in cheap, competent veterans.
6) And finally, it would appear that the team is either signing or already has signed Argentine fullback Claudio Nicholas Bravo. Bravo’s only 23, is currently with Banfield in the Argentine first division, and has been described as being a top 5 player at his position in MLS.
This is all well and good, but I see one major problem: when I searched the internet for info on the guy, most of the stuff I found listed him as a left back. And we’ve already got a left back. His name’s Jorge Villafaña and, while he’s getting a little older, he just finished a helluva good year.
So what’s up with that? Do Gavin and Gio see Bravo as a right back? Or is Jorge on his way out?
As you can tell from all the question marks, I don’t have answers here, just a bunch of questions.
Maybe Bravo’s completely comfortable on the right side. Or maybe not. Maybe it’ll be Bravo on the left and Pablo Bonilla on the right. If so, whither Jorge? He grew up in LA, you know. And the Galaxy defense suuuuuuucks. Is there a chance Jorge and Marco are both moving to LA teams? Will we see them playing against each other in El Traffico next year?
As usual, I have zero inside information, these are just my thoughts, and I could be completely wrong. Your opinions are just as valid as mine, so lemme hear them down below. Which moves do you love, which do you hate, and how do you see the Timbers lining up next year?