BEAVERTON, Ore. – The Portland Timbers and head coach Caleb Porter suddenly have an embarrassment of riches at the striker position with Monday’s announcement that the club had acquired Maximiliano Urruti in a trade with Toronto FC.
The 22-year-old Argentine joins starter Ryan Johnson, who is tied for the team lead with eight goals, heralded Colombian youngster José Valencia, coming off a two-assist performance over the weekend against Toronto, and former EPL mainstay Frédéric Piquionne as the options up top for the Timbers’ final push toward a first-ever berth to the MLS playoffs.
“You have to have multiple options in the striker position, and I like to have different dimensions in those options,” said Porter, who put Urruti through the paces for the first time during Monday’s session at the team’s training facility. “If you have four of the same guys, then it doesn’t give you much flexibility in the game and what you need.
"We feel like he brings a different dimension than what we had, which will complement our depth, give us multiple options.”
Urruti, who spent just a few weeks with Toronto FC following his arrival from Argentina’s first-division league championship side Newell’s Old Boys, had been on Portland’s radar for some time, Porter said. And when former Toronto general manager Kevin Payne was shown the door last week and the possibility of a trade suddenly presented itself, Porter said they jumped at it.
Urruti played in the same system as Porter’s 4-3-3 possession-orientated attack under former Newell's boss Gerardo Martino, now FC Barcelona’s head man.
The Timbers gave up hulking striker Bright Dike, a first-round pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft and allocation money.
"We feel like Urruti has tactical awareness, very clever in his movement, he’s also very technical,” Porter said. “[He's] really a smart player, he knows how to bring midfielders into the game. He’s a clinical finisher, as well. He’s played at the highest level on one of the top clubs in the world.”
Porter said Urruti would be on the travel roster for their next game, Saturday at Chivas USA, but would not start. He appeared in two games for Toronto, but before that hadn’t played or trained in nearly two months.
“I think his transition will be quicker because he’s played in a 4-3-3, he’s played in the No. 9 position his whole life,” Porter said. “Newell’s Old Boys plays a high-pressure, high-tempo style of play. He’s used to that, which is again one of the main reasons why we really liked him.”
It’s also one of the main reasons why Urruti said he was excited to be in the Rose City.
He’s conveniently been in town since Toronto arrived for their game against the Timbers on Saturday. Urruti said he was informed of the trade after the game, which Portland won 4-0. Fellow Argentine Diego Valeri, the Timbers’ attacking midfielder and Designed Player, welcomed Urruti into his home over the weekend to talk about his new club.
“We had the chance to talk about a lot of different things, but we concluded that Portland has a really great team, they like to play the ball, which is the style the game that we all like,” Urruti said Monday through a translator. “They want to fight for important things this season, so we concluded that this is a great opportunity for me.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.