PORTLAND, Ore. -- Since joining the Portland Timbers In January, Sebastian Blanco has quickly integrated into the side, giving the Timbers a fearsome front four as he lines up alongside Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe, and Fanendo Adi. Getting Blanco to the Rose City and inking him to a Designated Player contract, however, was no easy feat for the team.
“It was the most complicated deal that I have ever been a part of,” said Timbers’ general manager Gavin Wilkinson of the effort to bring Blanco on board.
“With the trials and tribulations that you were reading and that you were aware of, it was always a lot, lot more complicated than that. There were a lot of hurdles to get through. And we were getting a player that San Lorenzo did not want to lose.”
Rumors of the Timbers' pursuit surfaced early on in the process, with the Argentine media reporting a struggle between San Lorenzo, the Timbers, and Mexican powerhouse Club America.
“When we decided that Blanco was our guy,” said Wilkinson, “there were forty-five days from that moment until getting the deal closed, which, in all honesty we kept persisting and we had a belief that we could get it over the finish line, but normally when you go down one week and you find out it isn’t going to happen it’s impossible to go for forty-five days of not being sure and not being confident.”
But the Timbers had set their sights on Blanco and were sure that he would be the best fit for the team.
“During that stage we were looking at other options,” continued Wilkinson, “and we didn’t love the other options, but we loved Blanco.”
A diminutive wide midfielder with a strong attacking bent, Blanco draws easy comparisons to the Seattle Sounders’ Nicolas Lodeiro or Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco, but Wilkinson insists that “Blanco is Blanco.”
“We had a profile of a player [that we wanted] and that is him... For us it wasn’t that we need a Kekuta Manneh type and this was the closest that we could find. We were looking for this profile.”
Timbers head coach Caleb Porter was quick to sing the praises of Blanco after his arrival early in the preseason.
"He’s a smart player," said Porter, "so that makes it really easy. If you had a player who wasn’t as intelligent that makes it a little harder tactically because they are trying to figure out what you want and they are trying to figure out how to play with the other guys."
Timbers fans have only gotten a peek at Blanco on the pitch so far, with the Timbers’ new DP only making three preseason appearances. But Blanco’s transition into the Timbers’ lineup has been an easy one, with the team making a switch back into a possession-oriented style of play that predominated when Porter first joined the team.
“Half of the challenge with players,” Wilkinson said, “is them knowing the league, understanding the expectations, seeing what the football philosophy is, but also wanting -- for all the right reasons -- to be a part of MLS or a part of the Timbers. Blanco checked all of those boxes.”