Mounting injuries strain Timbers
If feels like the Timbers are in survival mode.
They say the goal is to win every match — and it is, of course. But, the priority now is getting to the end of May without any more injuries.
Goalkeeper Jeff Attinella is out for the season, joining Ismail Jome on that list after suffering an injury against Seattle on Sunday, May 9.
Diego Chara, who has logged his usual heavy workload early this season, is sidelined with a left hamstring injury. Defender Larrys Mabiala is down with a right hamstring injury. Goalkeepers Steve Clark (left thigh strain) and Aljaz Ivacic (sports hernia) are maybes to return this month. Midfielder Cristhian Paredes (left thigh) remains out.
At the goalkeeper position, Portland signed Logan Ketterer on loan from USL Championship club El Paso Locomotive FC, and the 27-year-old Madison, Wisconsin native seems the likely choice to start when the Timbers visit San Jose on Saturday, May 15. Hunter Sulte, the 19-year-old Southridge High senior and Alaska native who has started one match and who replaced Attinella on Sunday, is the other healthy keeper.
The 6-3 Ketterer has posted 21 shutouts in 49 appearances since joining El Paso in 2019. He was a fourth-round draft pick of Columbus out of Bradley in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft and made one appearance for the Crew in the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
The Timbers announced that Attinella ruptured his right Rectus Femoris tendon and will undergo surgery to repair the injury on Monday, May 17.
Coach Giovanni Savarese pointed to the heavy workload — the Timbers played five matches across 16 days concluding with Sunday's loss to Seattle — as contributing to the wave of injuries.
"When have you seen a team that has four goalkeepers end up with one" so early in the season? Savarese asked.
"There's no question that we stay competitive. … (Injuries) are never going to be excuses, but (they are) actually facts that we are going through at the moment," Savarese said.
An international break in the first two weeks of June — Portland has 19 days off after a May 30 game at Philadelphia — should help the Timbers get close to full strength. Before that are matches against three in-form opponents. San Jose is 3-2 after a 1-0 loss to Seattle Wednesday, the LA Galaxy is 3-1, Philadelphia is the defending Supporters' Shield winner and the lone MLS club to reach the Concacaf Champions League semifinals.
"It's the ability to be flexible in challenging circumstances that has allowed our team to achieve a lot success in tournaments, playoffs, regular season," forward Jeremy Ebobisse said. "And we're hoping that carries us this time around, too."
The Timbers will go into each of the three remaining May matches expecting to win, Ebobisse said.
"It's about having respect for the opponents, but knowing that we shouldn't be in awe of the form that they're in. We can bring the same level as them. Anything short of three points each game is going to be disappointing," he said.
Ebobisse, who got his first start since last season in Sunday's loss to Seattle, is working to regain his fitness and form after a hamstring injury a week before the Concacaf Champions League opener sidelined him for more than a month. That came after an offseason spent recovering from a late-season concussion.
Ebobisse said the Timbers as a group are incredibly supportive of injured teammates, but also geared not to dwell upon such challenges. He emphasized that the current situation will present players deeper on the depth chart an opportunity — perhaps a career-defining one — to show that they deserve a spot in the lineup.
"It's been a very focused week (of training) from the guys. Some of the guys who are getting ready to play have found a new level. Hopefully, that reflects against a challenging and surging San Jose team," Ebobisse said. "We have a really deep team. A lot of the guys who aren't getting consistent minutes would get consistent minutes, if not start on any other MLS team."
• MLS salary information — According to player salary information released Thursday by the MLS Players Association (mlsplayers.org), the Timbers rank 13th in terms of money spent on salaries for this season as of April 15. Portland's $11.94 million in wages is just below Seattle's $12.16 million and the MLS average of $12.29 million.
Figures released by the MLSPA do not include transfer fees spent to acquire a player. The website lists both base salary and guaranteed compensation for the 2021 season. Its formula for listing guaranteed compensation averages any bonuses across the life of a contract.
Portland's highest paid players are Sebastian Blanco (who hasn't yet played this season) with a guaranteed compensation $2.313 million and Yimmi Chara at $1.39 million. Diego Valeri ($914,875), injured designated player Jaroslaw Niezgoda ($908,758), and Felipe Mora ($905,000) are other top earners. Diego Chara, the last remaining member of the original MLS Timbers' roster, comes in at $668,750.
At $6 million, Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez of the LA Galaxy has the highest base salary, while Carlos Vela of LAFC ($6.3 million) has the highest guaranteed compensation number.
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