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Portland Timbers Finally Get Their Men: Gaston Fernandez and Norberto Paparatto Sign

The Timbers' rumored signings have finally come through.

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After a long off-season of rumors and speculation, the Portland Timbers have finally signed their long anticipated forward and defender, shoring up two positions that the team has been looking to strengthen during the off-season. Striker Gaston Fernandez and centerback Norberto Paparatto, both from Argentina, were announced today after a long month of rumors and speculation.

Fernanadez, 30, comes to the Timbers from Club Athletico Tigre in Argentina, where he scored 24 goals in 120 appearances since 2008, primarily as a substitute. Early speculation has Fernandez lining up as a "false nine" (you can find a good discussion of just what that entails here) and adding an additional twist to the Timbers' attack. "La Gata" could also line up in the wide-forward position, spots usually occupied by Darlington Nagbe or Rodney Wallace for the Timbers.

Paparatto, also 30, has spent the last seven years with Club Athletico Tigre, making 127 appearances and being named the club captain in the process. A tall, commanding centerback with good feet, Paparatto is expected to step immediately into a starting spot for the Timbers, likely alongside Pa Modou Kah.

Both players have a common link to the Timbers in Diego Valeri. Fernandez, although several years older, grew up in the same city as Valeri, Lanus, and played with Valeri when both were called up to the Argentinian national team. Paparatto and Valeri played together for the 2005-2006 season at Club Athletico Lanus.

The Timbers' press release for Fernandez:

Fernández joins Portland after successful seasons in Argentina, Mexico

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers today announced the signing of Argentine striker Gastón Fernández. He will be added to the roster pending the receipt of his International Transfer Certificate (ITC) and a P-1 visa. Per MLS and club policy, terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Fernández, 30, joins the Timbers after playing his career in the first divisions of Argentina and Mexico. Starting his professional career in 2002, Fernández has made 224 appearances (176 starts), scoring 48 goals in Argentina’s Primera División with clubs Club Atlético River Plate (2002-03; 04-06), Racing Club (2003-04), Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro (2007-08) and Estudiantes de la Plata (2008-09; 2010-13). He won season titles with three different clubs and played in four Copa Libertadores tournaments, winning the competition in 2009 with Estudiantes. Fernández tallied 19 goals over 51 league matches over parts of four seasons in Mexico’s Liga MX with clubs Monterrey (2006-07) and Tigres (2008, 2009).

"Gastón is a talented and motivated player, and is a great addition to our club," said Gavin Wilkinson, Timbers general manager. "We add another quality, proven goal-scorer to our attacking group. He has experienced success in the top tiers of Argentina and Mexico, and we look forward to him making a big impact in Portland and MLS."

A native of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Fernández has played each of the last five seasons with Estudiantes. He assembled back-to-back, 10-goal campaigns during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons and was one of the league’s top goal-scorers in each of the Apertura tournaments. Fernández helped lead Estudiantes to the 2010 Apertura tournament title, three straight Copa Libertadores appearances from 2009-11 and Copa Sudamericana appearances in 2010 and 2011. 

"We are extremely pleased to add a player the caliber of Gastón Fernández to our club," said Caleb Porter, head coach of the Timbers. "It was our priority to find a striker that was the right fit for our group on many different levels. We had a specific type of player in mind, someone that could create goals but also have chemistry with our other quality attacking pieces. We feel Gastón will not only bring that final third production but he will be a compliment to the team and our collective play."

Fernández was a key contributor to Estudiantes’ run to the Copa Libertadores championship in 2009, scoring three goals during the competition. He recorded the game-winning goal in a win over Libertad of Paraguay in the Round of 16 and then delivered the equalizer in a 2-1 win over Brazil’s Cruzeiro in Leg 2 of the final. 

During his two seasons with San Lorenzo, Fernández, nicknamed "La Gata (the cat)," finished the 2007 Clausura season as the club’s Golden Boot winner with nine goals in 17 games as the club went on to capture the season title. 

Fernández compiled a total of 11 goals over 23 league appearances over two stints in Mexico with Tigres, and helped the club win the 2009 SuperLiga title. He also had a successful loan spell with Monterrey over parts of two seasons from 2006-07, making 28 total league appearances and scoring eight goals.  

He made his professional debut with accomplished Argentine side River Plate in 2002 after coming up through the club’s academy. 

Gastón Fernández
Pronunciation: gast-OWN fer-NAN-dez
Position: Forward
Height: 5-8
Weight: 160
Born: Oct. 12, 1983 in Avellaneda, Buenos Aires, Argentina 
Hometown: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Last Club: Estudiantes de la Plata (Argentina) 
College: n/a
Citizenship: Argentina
Acquired: Signed on Jan. 15, 2014

The Timbers' press release for Paparatto:

Paparatto joins Timbers after seven years with Argentina’s Tigre

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers today announced the signing of Argentine center back Norberto Paparatto. He will be added to the roster pending the receipt of his International Transfer Certificate (ITC) and a P-1 visa. Per MLS and club policy, terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Paparatto, 30, has played in Argentina’s first division with Club Atlético Tigre since 2007, making more than 100 appearances and scoring one goal in league play. He helped guide Tigre to three of its best seasons in club history in the Primera División, including a tie for first place following the 2008 Apertura tournament. Paparatto aided in Tigre making its first appearances in international competition, twice playing in the Copa Sudamericana and earning a berth in the 2013 Copa Libertadores. 

"Norberto Paparatto brings leadership and experience, two characteristics that further strengthen the club," said Gavin Wilkinson, Timbers general manager. "He has a desire to play in MLS and Norberto’s ambitions as a player are in line with what we want to accomplish as a club. After several scouting trips and speaking to him at length, we are excited to have him on board with the Timbers."

The Androgué, Argentina, native was named Tigre’s captain ahead of the 2013-14 campaign, starting all 17 of his league appearances and contributing to six shutouts in the Inicial season. 

"One of our objectives in the offseason was to add another central defender with a specific profile, and we feel Paparatto is the ideal fit," said Caleb Porter, Timbers head coach. "He is technically and tactically sound and will bring another player in our locker room that has experience and leadership qualities playing at a high level for many years. Norberto will also help with our aerial ability, which is a critical component we wanted to enhance in our team. We look forward to integrating him into an already deep backline."

Paparatto first joined Tigre ahead of the 2007-08 campaign and played in 23 games for the club that season, 11 of which came during the Apertura tournament as Tigre finished as the league’s runner-up in second place. He started all 19 games during the 2008 Apertura campaign as Tigre assembled its best season in Argentina’s top flight with a 12-4-3 (39pts) record and a share of first place in the table, helping the club qualify for the 2009 Copa Sudamericana. 

After helping Tigre to a second-place finish in the 2012 Clausura tournament, Paparatto appeared in 26 games across all competitions for the club during the 2012-13 campaign. He contributed to Tigre’s run to the final of the 2012 Copa Sudamericana and played in six matches in the 2013 Copa Libertadores as the club reached the knockout stages of the tournament. 

Paparatto started his professional career with Club Atlético Lanús during the 2005-06 season after coming up through the club’s development system. He played the 2006-07 season in Argentina’s second division with Club Atlético Tiro Federal Argentino.

Norberto Paparatto
Pronunciation: nor-BEHR-toe POP-are-ah-toe
Position: Defender
Height: 6-3
Weight: 180
Born: Jan. 3, 1984, in Androgué, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Hometown: Androgué, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Last Club: Club Atlético Tigre (Argentina) 
College: n/a
Citizenship: Argentina
Acquired: Signed on Jan. 15, 2014