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Less than 40 days since the heartbreak of MLS Cup final loss, Timbers begin training for their 2022 season.

PMG PHOTO: DIEGO G. DIAZ - Midfielder Diego Chara dribbles up field during a scrimmage on Wednesday, Jan. 19 at the Timbers Training Center in Beaverton.There are some significant roster decisions still ahead, and the offseason break was unusually short, but spirits were high on Wednesday, Jan. 19, as the Portland Timbers went through their second day of preseason work at the Timbers Training Center in Beaverton.

At his first media availability of 2022, Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese addressed the most notable absence at the start of training camp by emphasizing that the Timbers want Sebastian Blanco back.

He also said the club remains in talks with Josecarlos Van Rankin to return to Portland and fill the vacancy at right back, that the team is planning to add another goalkeeper and that it's strange not to have Diego Valeri around.

Team captain Diego Chara said he enjoyed his break from soccer, spending it in Portland with his family.

"I tried to rest mentally and physically and be ready for this preseason," Chara said, adding that it was "hard" to leave 2021 behind after losing the MLS Cup final at home on penalty kicks.

The big question — cloud, really — hanging over the club at the start of its 12th season in Major League Soccer is whether Blanco will be back for a sixth season in Portland. Savarese was clear that he wants Blanco back, though didn't offer any specifics about how that negotiation is progressing.

"We're doing everything that we can to try to bring him back," Savarese said. "He's an important component of our team."

The news that a contract agreement between the Timbers and Blanco appeared to fall apart was an unexpected twist to the offseason.

PMG PHOTO: DIEGO G. DIAZ - Dairon Asprilla (foreground) and Bill Tuiloma work through a fitness drill during the Portland Timbers' second training session of 2022, Wednesday, Jan. 19 at the Timbers Training Center in Beaverton.Blanco's Argentine running mate, Valeri, was the man who made the Timbers a club to contend with for nine seasons. Valeri's departure might be officially announced as soon as Thursday. Valeri is expected to return to the Argentine club he started his career with —Lanus.

"It's not easy for anybody to see Diego go because he's been so important for the Portland Timbers. He has been a very important component of the growth of Major League Soccer," Savarese said. "Not having him around is strange."

Portland will have a different starting goalkeeper now that Steve Clark, who drew praise from Savarese Wednesday for his contributions to Portland's recent success, has moved on to Houston as a free agent.

Savarese said Aljaz Ivacic has displayed better confidence the longer he's been in Portland. MLS veteran David Bingham trained with Portland in 2021 and is now a signed Timber. Still, Savarese said the team is talking with a fourth goalkeeper.

PMG PHOTO: DIEGO G. DIAZ - Goalkeeper David Bingham, a veteran of 10 MLS seasons who recentlhy signed with the Portland Timbers, goes through a drill on Wednesday, Jan. 19 at the Timbers Training Center in Beaverton.The Timbers certainly must address right back, where Pablo Bonilla is the one player on the roster whose natural position is as a right-side defender. Van Rankin played last season in Portland on a one-year loan from Chivas of Guadalajara. Savarese said the Timbers remain in talks with Van Rankin.

In addition to unsigned players and those recovering from injury, the Timbers have multiple players either gone or leaving for national-team duty. As of Wednesday, that list included Yimmi Chara (Colombia), Bill Tuiloma (New Zealand), Cristhian Paredes (Paraguay), Bonilla (Venezuela) and Andy Polo (Peru).

The most notable injury entering the season is midfielder Eryk Williamson, who suffered a torn ACL on Aug. 29. Savarese said Williamson is "looking very good" but has a long way to go before returning to regular training.

"We know that with those type of injuries you can look good right now, but there's still a lot of work to be done," Savarese said. "I don't want to put a timeline to when we expect him to come back."PMG PHOTO: DIEGO G. DIAZ - Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese says the Timbers are excited to be back to work despite an unusually short offseason.

To give them enough players for preseason, the Timbers have about seven members of their youth academy training with the MLS club. Savarese said another six or seven players will be with the team on a trial basis during its time in Tucson, Arizona, where the team heads on Friday, Jan. 21. As of Wednesday, recent draft picks Justin Rasmussen and Sivert Haugli were in camp, while Julian Bravo was still in school at Santa Clara.

While in Tucson, the Timbers are scheduled to play exhibition matches Jan. 26 against Seattle and Feb. 3 against Sporting Kansas City before returning to Portland on Feb. 4.


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