The Portland Timbers today officially announced the acquisition of midfielder David Ayala from Argentine club Club Estudiantes de Plata. Ayala, 19, was signed under the MLS U-22 Initiative and will occupy one of Portland’s U-22 slots and an international slot. He will be added to the team pending the successful completion of a physical and the receipt of his International Transfer Certificate and P-1 visa. Ayala’s contract runs through 2025, with an additional club option year.
Ayala announced!— Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC) February 1, 2022
Midfielder David Ayala has signed with the Timbers from Club Estudiantes de la Plata in Argentina. Welcome, David!
Details: https://t.co/a1yp4kb0Vj | #RCTID pic.twitter.com/l2sEYUsqDm
Ayala, a highly-touted rising star in the midfield, has logged 32 appearances across all competitions for Estudiantes since his professional debut in 2019. In addition, he has been part of the Argentina U-17 and U-20 teams. He was part of the Argentina team that made it to the round of 16 at the U-17 World Cup in 2019.
For the Timbers, Ayala projects as a pivotal midfield piece both for the present and the future. He has been a player Portland has been tracking for some time with rumors first bubbling up last year and news popping up last month that the Timbers were close to finalizing his signing. Now, the Timbers have their man, and head coach Giovanni Savarese is happy to finally have him in the fold.
“He’s a player we’ve had our eyes on, and from constant communication with the people that have helped in his development, there has been great, positive feedback about him,” Savarese shared on Ayala. “His talent will strengthen us and make us more competitive. He shows great potential to grow as a player, and we feel Portland will be a great environment for him.”
"He shows great potential to grow as a player, and we feel Portland will be a great environment for him."— Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC) February 1, 2022
The next stage of rising midfielder David Ayala's career will be in green and gold.@richardfarley: https://t.co/E1RV4BmYlf | #RCTID pic.twitter.com/WScwOasIJZ
Traditionally a central midfielder, Ayala can play as either a defensive midfielder or a box-to-box midfielder at the MLS level. Developing at either of those positions would be of great benefit for the Timbers. Diego Chara has proved he is still able to play at a top level, but with him set to put even more minutes on his legs, Ayala looks like the potential heir apparent in the defensive midfield for Portland. In addition, Ayala could line up alongside Chara, providing a different element and shape to Portland’s midfield.
Based on his age and the current composition of the Timbers’ roster, Ayala has the benefit of not necessarily needing to be relied upon to be an immediate difference-maker. At still just 19, Ayala is decidedly still a work in progress. It is unknown how quickly and effectively he will adapt to life in Major League Soccer and how he will develop as a professional.
But if he follows the performance curve he has been on and adapts to MLS at a similar rate that fellow U-22 signing Santiago Moreno did in 2021, the Timbers could be looking at a real contributor and potential difference-maker in their midfield for years to come.
You can read the team’s full press release on Ayala’s signing here.