Timbers officially add Colombian attacker
The Portland Timbers on Thursday announced the acquisition of Colombian attacker Santiago Moreno as a MLS Under-22 Initiative signing.
Moreno, 21, comes to Portland from Colombia's America de Cali and is under contract through 2025.
Described in reports as a versatile attacker, Moreno had 10 goals and seven assists in 52 appearances since joining America's senior club in July 2019 after coming through the youth system of his hometown club. In 2021, Moreno scored a team-high six goals and had four assists in 26 games with America.
"There has been a lot of interest in Santiago Moreno from many teams, so the fact that he decided to come to Portland makes us feel special," Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. "We are all excited to have a talented player coming here that will provide us many great assets but still has room to develop, and I believe that Portland is a very good place for him to continue to grow."
In choosing to come to Portland, Moreno joins Diego Chara, Yimmi Chara and Dairon Asprilla as Timbers from Colombia.
"He has one thing that is very important: He's hungry," Savarese said. "He's determined. He wants to grow. He wants to be a player that can develop and he's coming here with that desire."
Adding an attacker might not seem like a natural top priority for this summer transfer window. Portland could use added depth at left back and, perhaps, defensive midfield.
But, Moreno, a highly-touted young player who reportedly drew interest from multiple MLS clubs and elsewhere, provides Portland the opportunity to develop the next generation of playmaking talent while Diego Valeri is still playing. That's not to predict that Moreno will become another Valeri, but he does give the club another young asset who could develop into a significant contributor.
"Santiago is a talented young player, who has already showcased his qualities at the club level and in Copa Libertadores," Timbers general manager and president of soccer Gavin Wilkinson said in the team's announcement of the deal. "He is a player that we believe can provide an impact in multiple positions in the attack. We are excited to continue supporting his development, and see him becoming an important contributor to the club."
While his scoring stats are not spectacular, Moreno, in reports, is described as a player who wants the ball at his feet to create, either on the wing or as a more central attacker.
Moreno's presence gives the Timbers better roster flexibility in the case of injuries such as Sebastian Blanco's extended absence. The club also can more seriously look at transfer options for a player such as Jeremy Ebobisse — should an enticing offer come his way.
"(Moreno is) a smart player. Even though he is young, he has a good understanding how to adapt to different positions, and different scenarios and situations," Savarese said. "That's one of the things that we like. Even though he's young, he looks mature in understanding and adapting to different situations."
Portland sent $50,000 of General Allocation Money to Philadelphia for priority to sign Moreno.
Friday at LA — The Timbers return to action on Friday, visiting the LA Galaxy for a 7 p.m. match (ESPN). Portland is 6-7-1, eighth in the West. The Timbers are only 1-5-2 on the road. The Galaxy are 8-6-1, third in the West, but has one win in its last five and is expected to be without Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez.
Savarese said that Sebastian Blanco, who has seen short stints late in recent games, will be available as he builds fitness. Blanco "is looking better and better in practice, He's more comfortable and confident that he can execute more things on the field," Savarese said.
The coach said left back Claudio Bravo is expected to return to Portland next week after Argentina was eliminated from the Olympics.
Jaroslaw Niezgoda is practicing, but not yet ready to see game action. "He's not ready to be part of our bench, but he's getting there," Savarese said.
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