Brian Fernandez greeted assembled media with smiles and handshakes on Wednesday morning and spoke through an interpreter about his focus as the highest-priced acquisition in Portland Timbers history.
He emphasized his gratitude to the Timbers for the opportunity and said he is focued on working hard to get up to speed with his new teammates.
Fernandez, 24, won't play on Friday when the Timbers visit the Vancouver Whitecaps. His International Transfer Certificate is not expected to arrive until his three-game suspension is up in Liga MX. That is expected to happen in time for Fernandez to be eligible to play next Wednesday, when the Timbers are at Houston.
Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said he is excited to have the 5-9, 155-pound Fernandez on board but won't rush him into action.
"He's excited to be here. I'm excited for him to be here," Savarese said. "He's starting to get his form back again. We've seen a lot of him, not only in training but in clips. He's going to bring a lot of good things. Definitely he's going to be a threat offensively. He has very good qualities, and he can score goals."
Savarese did not talk specifically about where Fernandez might debut in the lineup but said that "soon enough he will be on the field.
"We have to make sure that we're smart in the way we're going to bring him in. He has to adapt well," Savarese said.
Fernandez noted he succeeded at stops in Chile and Mexico, leading Necaxa in goals (18 in 32 appearances) since joining the Liga MX club last July. He was second in the just-concluded Liga MX Claustura regular season with 15 goals in 18 games.
Fernandez said some players he knows from Argentina soccer have played in MLS but he has no friends in the league. Having fellow Argentine Diego Valeri as a resource will help that transition.
"He's just been wonderful," Fernandez said. "He said really great things about the city, about the league, the United States in general and how this is a great opportunity for me to basically just start a new life and just situate myself in a position to achieve great things. That's what I'm hoping to do."
Fernandez said challenges such as the suspension in 2015 for testing positive for cocaine helped him mature.
"It's just been really hard work," he said. "Just work hard to be a better person, better professional, better soccer player."
He called the recent spitting incident that resulted in the three-game Liga MX suspension "an opportunity for me to learn from my mistakes and obviously something that I won't do ever again."
The Timbers (3-5-1) take a three-game win streak into Friday's 7 p.m. game at Vancouver. The Whitecaps (2-5-3) are in transition under first-year coach Marc Dos Santos. Dos Santos and Savarese coached against each other in the North American Soccer League, and Dos Santos was rumored to be a candidate to coach the Timbers when Savarese was hired.
"Marc and I know each other from some battles in the NASL. We know each other very well. There's mutual respect," Savarese said. "I know there's going to be another good battle in this different level type of game. There's a rivalry behind it as well, which makes it even more fun."
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