The Portland Timbers’ marquee acquisition of the offseason was signing Brazilian midfielder Evander as a Designated Player. With the expectations on him to revitalize Portland’s attack, what can we expect him to bring to the field? Toke Theilade, who covers the Danish Superliga where Evander most recently played, came in on loan to Stumptown Footy to help answer this question. Here is his scouting report:
The Portland Timbers recently signed midfielder Evander from Danish side FC Midtjylland, and the Brazilian could become the next in a long line of players successfully moving from Denmark to the MLS. Hany Mukhtar of Nashville and Mikael Uhre of Philadelphia have already taken the league by storm with great accolades to show for it (Mukhtar won the league MVP last year and Uhre helped the Union win the Eastern Conference and reach MLS Cup), and Andreas Maxsø just joined the Colorado Rapids. So, who is the Brazilian midfielder, and what can Timbers fans expect from him in the coming years?
From Rio to Herning
Growing up in Rio de Janeiro, Evander joined the ranks of local side Vasco da Gama at the age of nine. Here, he went through the same academy as one of Brazil’s all-time greats, Romario. Just like the 1994 world champion, Evander also eventually made the first team, earning his debut as a 17-year-old in 2016.
Evander went to play three seasons for Vasco da Gama’s first team, mostly as a rotational player, before making the move to Denmark in the summer of 2018, when he joined FC Midtjylland on a season-long loan deal.
The Brazilian came to Denmark as an unknown, albeit exciting player, but he quickly became a household name. After his first season he had nine goals and three assists to his name and helped his team win the Danish cup for the first time ever, making it an easy decision for Midtjylland to trigger his release clause and acquire him permanently.
Over the next three seasons, Evander established himself as one of the finest players in Denmark. He became famous for his beautiful goals and brilliant technique. In the 2019 - 2020 season, he was one of the main factors behind Midtjylland winning the championship with a staggering eight goals and nine assists.
The following season Evander improved his goal tally even further as he contributed with 12 league goals and six assists. Although Midtjylland fell short in the championship battle, they qualified for the Champions League for the first time ever, where they landed in the group of death alongside Ajax, Atalanta and Liverpool. Here, Evander showed himself off positively with some strong performances, including 90 minutes in FCM’s 1-1 draw at home against Liverpool.
For most of Evander’s time in Denmark, he’d been rumored to make a move to larger European teams. Clubs such as AC Milan, Atletico Madrid, FC Porto and several Premier League clubs had all, according to media rumors, been endeared by the Brazilian for a couple of years, but Midtjylland’s high price scared them all off.
Instead, Evander now moves to MLS and the Portland Timbers. Before the World Cup, he scored four times in ten league games. He also leads the assist list in the UEFA Europa League after an impressive group stage.
What Can Evander Bring to Portland?
For most players, moving from sunny Rio de Janeiro to a small city in the middle of dark, cold and rainy Denmark would require quite the taking used to. Several talented players have failed to adjust to the Superliga — but not Evander. From day one he made an impact on the field, and he adjusted to his new surroundings easily and without any significant issues.
The Brazilian also leaves Midtjylland as a club favorite and an icon after his 4 and-a-half years at the club. He has grown immensely during this time, and he’s gone from being a talented and gifted youngster to a real star and leader. His teammates look to him in the big games, and he’s capable of providing the magic that can decide the outcome of matches. This was for example seen at Brøndby Stadion this season, where he scored a nice goal as Midtjylland won 2-0. He steps up when it matters the most, like in the cup final last season where he scored the winning goal in the penalty shootout.
Although he plays on the midfield, Evander is lethal in front of goal, something the 39 goals to his name proves. Advanced stats support this as well. Over the past 3 and-a-half seasons where expected goals (xG) data is publicly available for the Superliga on the official website, Evander has scored 30 goals on an xG on 29.1. He’s thus outperforming his expected goals, which is regarded as the best proof of finishing quality.
One would, however, be mistaken to think that Evander only thinks of himself on the pitch. Since he arrived in Denmark, he’s been one of the finest playmakers the Superliga has ever seen. Over the past four seasons, he’s finished in the top two in chances created among all players in the league every time. Twice he’s finished with the most chances created for his teammates in the entire league. His passing is of the highest level, and so is his overview. He has great anticipation and is able to find his teammates even in small pockets and send off his passes even before the strikers starts their deep runs.
His great ball control also shows on set pieces, where he’s become somewhat of a specialist. He has scored some beautiful free kicks during his stint at Midtjylland, and also provides great crosses from corner kicks and indirect free kicks.
He is a versatile player, able to play on both wings as well as a supporting striker, but he is best playing as a number ten. His technique on the ball is among the finest in Scandinavia and he is nearly impossible to dispossess. He is fast on the ball and able to take on opponents with sharp dribbles and impressive skills.
The Portland Timbers are getting a player with a high level, but also room to become even greater. Evander has already proven himself at the biggest stage in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League. He’s hungry and eager to improve and elevate his career, just like Mukhtar and Uhre have done already after their moves to the MLS. Timbers fans could and should have high expectations for the new Brazilian who arrives with the ambition to take over soccer.