Portland Timbers deal a team favorite in defender Futty Danso

BEAVERTON, Ore. – Mamadou “Futty” Danso was a Portland Timbers original.

First joining the club in 2009 during their USL First Division days, the Gambian center back made the transition with the Timbers for their inaugural MLS season in 2011. And the 31-year-old has been an off-and-on starter ever since, most notably shepherding the backline last season during the Timbers' first-ever run to the MLS Cup playoffs.

That made Danso’s trade Monday to the Montreal Impact an especially tough decision, head coach Caleb Porter said Wednesday, after the team’s first training session since Sunday's 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps.

“Anytime a guy comes in or out, it’s a long process in terms of deciding those things,” Porter said as his team prepared for Saturday’s road match against Real Salt Lake. “This one was tough because Futty is one of my favorites that I’ve coached. He’s a great guy, a good person and he’s done a lot for this club. But we felt that it was the right move for the club.”

Danso’s move is also expected to be an important one for a team struggling mightily on defense.

Porter said it opens a roster spot and salary cap space for the summer transfer window, and the Timbers have reportedly made a sizable offer to former Manchester City center back Joleon Lescott.

Porter didn’t comment on that specifically, but said “we’re always looking to improve the team.”

General manager Gavin Wilkinson told MLSsoccer.com last month that the club has a “sizable sum to spend” and are looking to improve both the backline and add a target striker in the summer transfer window.

If new forward Fanendo Adi’s short-term loan is made permanent – he has two goals and two assists in four appearances – those resources would likely all go to a defender.

“Based on this year and current form, Futty wasn’t going to be in our long-term plans. Short term, I feel like we have guys to manage the backline,” Porter said.

Danso, who appeared in 10 of Portland’s 14 games this season including a 90-minute effort last week in a 2-0 win over Chivas USA, was perhaps at his best when he started the final six games of the season last year, a stretch in which the Timbers allowed just two goals.

“I think it’s a fresh start for him, as well,” Porter said. “Montreal wanted him, so I think he gets a chance to go there and play.”

Until reinforcements arrive, Danso’s departure likely creates some concern in central defense.

Norberto Paparatto, who has only recently returned to the mix after sitting out six straight games since mid-April, just returned to training after suffering a concussion against Chivas. Center-back mainstay Pa Modou Kah didn’t practice Wednesday, and Porter said he has been managing Achilles tendonitis.

That leaves Rauwshan McKenzie, who got his first two starts of the season last week, as the only other starting center back to have received playing time this year.

Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.