Welcome to the offseason Rose City, where rumors are flying and the transfer fees are rising.
Today, the Portland Timbers were reported to be in “advanced talks” to acquire Brazilian attacking midfielder Evander from FC Midtjylland. Tom Bogert of MLS Soccer was the one to announce the stage of discussions and also report that if the Timbers were to acquire Evander it would be “a potential club record deal”.
Sources: Portland Timbers are in advanced talks to sign Brazilian attacking midfielder Evander from FC Midtjylland in a potential club record deal.— Tom Bogert (@tombogert) October 26, 2022
Evander, 24, has 50g/38a in 165 apps in Denmark since joining in 2019. Former Brazil youth int'l. Would obviously be a DP. pic.twitter.com/PONpXqlBik
Rumors started bubbling up on Tuesday night linking the Timbers and Evander, and now there appears to be much more smoke to that fire. While “advanced talks” do not necessarily translate to “done deal”, it can be reasonably assumed that signing Evander is a matter of “when” not “if”.
What needs to happen for Portland to sign Evander?
A report from Danish tabloid B.T. sets the rumored transfer fee for the Brazilian at around 10 million Euros, which would roughly translate to around $10 million. Even if the actual fee is potentially higher that lower number would be very close to a club-record, as it rivals the fee the Timbers paid in 2019 for forward Brian Fernandez.
Because of that number, as Bogert reports, Evander would be a Designated Player acquisition. The Timbers currently have three DPs on the roster in Jaroslaw Niezgoda, Yimmi Chara, and Sebastian Blanco. Blanco’s contract can be bought down with Targeted Allocation Money in order to open a DP spot, which would in theory make room for Evander to be added to Portland’s roster.
However, that is not the only move that would need to happen. According to the stipulations of the new Under-22 Player Initiative, in order for a team to use all three U22 slots they cannot have three senior DPs. One must be a Young Designated Player — a DP under the age of 23. Evander is 24, so he would count as a senior DP, and the Timbers currently have all three U22 slots occupied (by Santiago Moreno, David Ayala, and Juan Mosquera).
So, even after buying down Blanco, something’s gotta give. One of Yimmi Chara or Niezgoda would have to to be moved off the roster to make room for Evander. Earlier this month rumors started coming out of Poland that Niezgoda was exploring a move away from Portland, but nothing concrete is out there around that as of yet. Should Evander come to town, be ready for the other shoe to drop somewhere else on the roster.
Who is Evander is, and how does he fit on the Timbers?
Should all the necessary moves happen, the Timbers would be acquiring a promising player in a position of need with an impressive resume. Evander plays primarily as an attacking midfielder, a role that the Timbers desperately were missing production from in the 2022 season.
A former Brazilian Youth International who made eleven appearances with Brazil’s U17 side, he has tallied 50 goals and 38 assists in 165 appearances with Midtjylland since arriving in 2019, and that includes a goal and four assists in the UEFA Europa League competition. His production in Denmark attracted intense interest from Scottish club Rangers last summer, but no deal materialized.
(If you want some context for how highly Evander has been rated, peep the comments on that Youtube video to see some Scottish soccer fans who were pretty excited over him).
He is a dynamic attacking player entering his prime: the type of transfer that has thrived in MLS. MLS clubs have found success before in looking to the Danish league for transfers, particularly in the form of Hany Mukhtar with Nashville SC and Mikael Uhre with the Philadelphia Union. Signs are pointing to Evander fitting that same sort of mold and being the attacking talisman that could reinvigorate the Timbers — like Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco were in years past.
Wait what about the attacking midfielder the Timbers already have on the roster...
Yeah... with this rumored transfer we need to address the Eryk Williamson sized elephant in the room.
Williamson is a dynamic two-way midfielder that the Timbers currently have on the roster — and he occupies a very similar role to what Evander would play with the team.
Williamson was enjoying another sterling summer with the Timbers before he was hampered by injury. Then seemingly fell out of favor with head coach Giovanni Savarese, as he didn’t start Portland’s final home game and didn’t see the field at all on Decision Day.
Almost immediately after Portland’s 2022 season ended, an instagram post from Williamson was put up seeming to imply his dissatisfaction with not being brought into that finale game (it was just as quickly deleted). That post has ignited whisperings that Williamson is now looking for a move away from the club.
Evander’s acquisition would certainly pour a whole lot more gasoline on that situation. There are certainly ways to fit both players on the field — for example in a 4-3-3 midfield system with one player sitting deeper in the midfield than the other.
But both players want to play closer to the goal, and so any compromise just as easily raises questions of on-field fit and preference for either man. Williamson specifically has demonstrated in Savarese’s midfield system he is most effective as the most advanced midfielder — pretty much exactly where Evander would project to play.
Should (when?) the Timbers sign Evander they will just as quickly have to answer questions about the fit around the midfielder they already have — or about what the future of Williamson may hold.
In any case, the offseason for the Timbers seems to be kicking off with a bang, and all we can do is just wait out the winter and see where all of the chips start to fall.