Foreign legion: Injury-hit Timbers turn to French vets
PORTLAND, Ore. – Mikael Silvestre is headed back to the Rose City, and one of his countrymen has joined him.
On Wednesday the Portland Timbers finalized their acquisition of the former French national team defender, who impressed while on trial with the Timbers earlier this preseason and then with Seattle for the past two weeks, one day after well-traveled striker Frederic Piquionne began a trial stint with the club.
Piquionne could potentially address the team’s thinning ranks at the forward position, where injuries have taken their toll this preseason. He recently spent time on loan with English League One side Doncaster after two seasons with West Ham. Piquionne trained with the Timbers on Tuesday and head coach Caleb Porter said he would play in Wednesday’s preseason game against FC Dallas.
“Hard to tell. It’s obviously the first day,” Porter said. “He’s going to be good, he’s got a pedigree, he’s played at a very high level. I like the way he looks. He looks like a player, and moves like a player and certainly seems sharp around the goal. We’re excited to see him tomorrow to see how he performs.”
The capture of Silvestre addresses Portland's growing need for an experienced centerback, with Hanyer Mosquera having to leave at halftime of Sunday’s preseason game against San Jose with a groin injury and Mamadou “Futty” Danso missing the game with a foot problem. That’s on top of David Horst’s groin injury, which has kept him out for several weeks.
“We’ve had a few unfortunate [injuries], and it happens a bit in the back,” Porter said. “These are rugged guys that are battling.”
Second-year defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste started Sunday’s game and struggled, getting called for a handball that led to San Jose’s first goal in the third minute. Rookie Dylan Tucker-Ganges subbed in for Mosquera.
“It gives an opportunity for Andrew Jean-Baptiste to play major minutes,” Porter said. “He’s played every game in the preseason, and performed pretty well. Last game, he made a few mistakes like a young center back would. I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned in these games for our players in the preseason, and we want to work these kinks out. You have to understand, he’s a young player still.”
Silvestre certainly solves the experience problem at that position.
He was with Manchester United from 1999 to 2008 before spending two years with Arsenal. He’s been with Werder Bremen of the Bundesliga for the past three seasons and was a member of the French side that played in the 2006 World Cup final.
Porter had high praise for Silvestre during his trial.
“From an experience standpoint, he’s going to bring a presence, leadership,” Porter said in January. “Ultimately, he’s a seasoned pro who knows what it takes.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.