Following up on by C.I. DeMann’s Six Degrees column from February 4th, let’s take stock of the new and old attacking threats that will terrorize opposition defenses in 2020.
Beginning with the familiar faces, the triangle of Diego Chará, Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco is arguably the most prolific and experienced midfield trio in the entire MLS (@ me). Chará’s contribution obviously isn’t in the form of goals but rather sweeping up in midfield so Blanco and Valeri can have creative freedom behind the strikers and out wide.
But as for players who will actually get on the scoresheet, there’s quite a few. While other teams across the league might have more depth at the number 9 position in terms of sheer numbers, the Timbers have three players who could be franchise strikers—something other teams don’t have. Admittedly, two are unproven, but their experience and goalscoring records elsewhere offer enough evidence for high expectations.
Let’s start with the GOAT. Diego Valeri is the best player to ever play for the Timbers. Since 2013, as an attacking midfielder, the man has contributed 76 goals and 81 assists. A few times when a season would come to a close I would say to myself, “Well, it was a pleasure...but that’s the last time we’re going to see Diego Valeri in Timbers colors. He’s off to Europe.”
His services would surely have been appreciated at a mid-tier La Liga or Serie A side. But he stayed in Portland, and now he’s a legend.
SIDE TOPIC: Let’s stir some arguments up shall we? I’m going to say with complete conviction that the only three players who should be considered club legends are Diego Valeri, Diego Chará and Darlington Nagbe. (@ me).
He may only have one or two more seasons left in him, so let’s enjoy the wonderful technique and intelligence of El Maestro while we still can.
Then there’s Blanco. The little magician who found his way to Portland in 2017. After successful spells in Ukraine and his native Argentina, he hit the ground running in the PNW. So far, he’s tallied 27 goals and 30 assists in 102 career games. This pace doesn’t quite put him on par with Valeri but let’s not hold everyone to EL Maestro’s standard: Blanco is an MLS player of the highest calibre.
Finally, Jeremy Ebobisse. 2019 was a breakout year for the young forward. I will raise my own hand in humility and say that I never imagined the young striker would go on to score 11 league goals and become an international player for The US, but I’m so happy he did. In 2018 he did score 2 goals in 5 starts so there might have been a tiny hint of his capabilities. Nevertheless, here we are with another young and hungry striker who will surely step into the new season full of confidence.
So then, on to the new boys! Let’s start with the South American.
The Chilean striker has an impressive goalscoring record in both Chile and Mexico. Scoring goals in both of those countries should mean that his talents will translate to a fruitful 2020 season in MLS. As a striker Mora is a classic number 9 but what’s interesting about him is his ability to find space in between defenders and score with his head. He isn’t especially tall (5’9”) but he has a knack for ghosting into space and getting his head on crosses. The South American connection with Valeri and Blanco (and Yimmi) might just prove lethal. Take a look at some of his goals from his time in Mexico with UNAM.
Next up is our new Polish DP, Jarosłow Niezgoda. His wiry build and instinctive finishing can’t help but remind me of another wiry and instinctive Polish striker who plays in Germany...
Never mind that. Let’s take a look at what OUR new signing is all about. He started his career with Wisła Puławy in 2012, playing in the lower leagues of the Polish soccer pyramid before being snapped up by arguably the biggest club in the country, Legia Warsaw. His goalscoring form continued and many thought that he would be receiving an international call-up but after playing five times for the Polish U-21 team, it still hasn’t arrived. With an ankle injury and a loan spell in the mix during his four years in Legia, he still managed to score 27 league goals. We haven’t seen a lot of players make the jump from the Polish Ekstraklasa to MLS but it is a quality European league and Niezgoda had plenty of experience in European competitions while at Legia Warsaw. A lethal and composed finisher with either foot, Niezgoda will certainly be on the scoresheet frequently this season.
But what about Yimmi!?
We are definitely counting on Yimmi for a big impact—he’s a DP after all! But while his impact will surely be felt in Providence Park, let’s not forget that he wasn’t signed to score the goals. A speedy and hard-working winger, but not a goalscorer. His record for goals in his career is decent but not staggering and the idea is to have him on the wing supplying cross after cross. (More to come on Yimmi soon).
I would be remiss not to mention that there are several players who could very well be on the cusp of a breakout year. Dairon Asprilla, Eryk Williamson, Andy Polo, or new HGP Blake Bodily could all surprise and find the back of the net. If you’re as excited as I am about the prospect of our attacking line or if you feel I’ve missed something then leave a comment and let me know!