PORTLAND, Ore. – On the eve of what is expected to be a wildly enthusiastic home opener, the Portland Timbers may have one-upped themselves.
The team on Wednesday announced the signing of their first Designated Player, midfielder Diego Chará. The 25-year-old Colombian, a former teammate of Timbers forward Jorge Perlaza at Colombian first-division club Deportes Tolima, is a creative player with an ability elevate those around him, a quality that appealed to Timbers coach John Spencer and general manager Gavin Wilkinson when they scouted him.
“He’s just an impressive, impressive player,” Wilkinson told MLSsoccer.com of the 25-year-old. “He’s got the work ethic that we need, he’s a very good athlete and is always looking at distribution moving forward. He’s a player that can put the opposition under pressure.”
Chará has made one appearance with the Colombian national team. Wilkinson said Tolima were unwilling to sell the player until los Pijaos were knocked out of the Copa Libertadores two weeks ago.
Wilkinson and Spencer evaluated Perlaza and Chará at the same time; however, Perlaza’s contract expiration allowed Portland an opportunity to bring him to the US (first as a trialist) sooner.
“In speaking with Jorge, he has nothing but tremendous things to say about Diego,” Wilkinson said. “Both players were scouted several times. When John and I watched Tolima, we liked both players.”
Wilkinson said he is hopeful that Chará can join the Timbers in about 10 days.
For Perlaza, the adjustment from Colombia to the US has taken some time. Spencer even used the phrase “culture shock” to describe the period of time it takes for an international player to adjust to new surroundings.
The difference, Wilkinson pointed out, is that there is some pressure on Perlaza to score goals.
“Jorge has trained well, according to the coaches, and looked sharp,” Wilkinson said. "He’s adjusting."
The adjustment period for Chará – despite the DP tag – may be a little bit easier. Perlaza will be a familiar face and there is less pressure to score goals on the midfielder. Wilkinson drew a comparison between Chará and former Netherlands star Edgar Davids, a playmaking midfielder with exceptional quality.
“He played 300, 400 matches and you were lucky if he scored 25 goals,” Wilkinson said of Davids. “But he made great impact on the game and made his teammates better.”