PORTLAND, Ore. -- From his position in the center of the pitch, Portland Timbers midfielder David Guzman has had an instant influence on his new side. Taking over the No. 6 role in front of the backline from retired Timbers midfielder Jack Jewsbury, Guzman has been turning heads in the Rose City as he has partnered with Diego Chara to hold down the center of the pitch.
“With David we have more possession of the ball on the back side,” Chara said after training on Tuesday. “He is a good player, a strong player. He moves the ball very well.”
That move toward a possession-oriented style of play has been central to the Timbers’ offseason plans and the pairing of Guzman, 26, and Chara, 30, will be central to its success. Luckily for Timbers fans, the duo seem to have immediately hit it off.
“They have got great chemistry,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said. “This is my fifth year of putting a group together and I can honestly say that the chemistry between Chara and Guzman is as good as it has ever been. It helps when they compliment each other. They don’t necessarily need to read each other as much because what Guzman is good at and what he wants to do complements Chara and vice versa.”
The pair work as a classic No. 6 and No. 8. Guzman’s ability to provide a strong defensive presence has freed Chara to get forward and join the attack with increasing frequency, and the longtime Timbers midfielder is relishing the opportunity.
“I feel more free to give options to the attack, to create, and to help Valeri and Nagbe to create,” said Chara. “I think it is a very nice chemistry between us.”
That chemistry has quickly extended off the pitch, and the bond between the two Spanish-speaking midfielders is readily apparent.
“It doesn’t hurt, too, that they seem to really get along as people off the field,” said Porter. “Chara has kind of taken Guzman under his wing and they can relate to each other in a lot of ways culturally. That has really helped as well in the transition and in the partnership and the chemistry between the two of them.”
Having joined for the Timbers’ inaugural MLS season in 2011, Chara is one of the side’s longest-tenured players and he is quick to bring new arrivals into the fold.
“For me it is important because when I was here for the first time in 2011 we had people who helped me," he said. "I think this is my role now in the team.”
Chara’s bond with Guzman might have started even before he donned a Timbers kit. Asked about his memories of facing off against Guzman and Costa Rican power Deportivo Saprissa in the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League group stage, Chara grins.
“I remember when we faced him in the last game of the CONCACAF Champions League against Saprissa in Providence Park. We were fighting for the ball in the corner and he always remembered that because a couple of times I kicked him.” Chara said with a laugh, and added: “It was a really good experience.”