BEAVERTON, Ore. – Caleb Porter will have a decision to make when his Portland Timbers take the field at Stade Saputo on Sunday against the Montreal Impact (8 pm ET, UDN, MLS Live).
On one hand, there’s Adi, one of Portland’s two recently signed Designated Players, an imposing 6-foot-4 target striker who burst onto the scene with four goals and two assists in his first five games. In his last five appearances, however, four of which were starts, Adi has been absent from the scoresheet.
On the other there’s Urruti, the energetic striker who seemingly finds a way to score whenever he’s on the field and has a career-high seven goals in 16 appearances (nine starts). He returned to the fold in the Timbers’ 2-1 victory over Colorado last Friday, coming off the bench to score the equalizer after making just two brief appearances over a five-game stretch while dealing with an injury.
“We’ve been handicapped with Maxi not being healthy,” Porter said Thursday at the team facility when asked about his Adi or Urruti decision-making process. “Last game was the first game [Urruti] was healthy enough to play, and he delivered. But we don’t really look at it from the standpoint always of who just scored or didn’t score. We look at it form the standpoint of what’s best for this game.”
The signs point toward Urruti getting the start against Montreal.
When he came on in the 61st minute against the Rapids, along with fellow Argentine forward Gaston Fernandez, Porter said it changed the dynamic of the Timbers' attack. Urruti made a near-post run to get on the end of a Jack Jewsbury cross for a goal that sparked the Timbers’ rally from 1-0 down.
Urruti said he is happy to contribute whether coming off the bench or starting.
“The coach, he puts on the pitch the best 11 players he feels are in the best position to do the job,” Urruti said Thursday through a translator. “The minutes that I get to play, I just take advantage of that to show him that I can be there also. So I just do that: I take advantage of the minutes I get.”
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Porter was grateful to have Urruti available in Friday’s game to spell Adi, who Porter said may have been a bit worn down after putting in five straight 90-minute shifts coming into that game. Adi returned to Denmark – where he previously played at FC Copenhagen before the Timbers added him on a short-term loan that transformed into a Designated Player deal – for a few days to deal with family business, but Porter said he does not expect that to factor into the starting decision.
“All along, whether Adi was here or not, we’re going to base our decisions on what we feel for that game,” Porter said. “We haven’t been able to in the last several games make a decision on a striker. I think it, in some ways, hurt Adi that we had to play him 90 minutes in every single game, because typically we always sub our striker at least. He’s had to manage so many minutes that I think you saw that a little bit in the dip in his work rate and form.”
In all likelihood, both Adi and Urruti are likely to see action Sunday, and the Timbers hope the combination proves difficult to handle.
“The truth is that every player has to show the coaches that he’s ready to play,” Urruti said. “I believe we’re a group, and the most important thing is for us to be united and whoever is on the pitch we need to support him.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.