MILFORD, Oh. — Fanendo Adi plays for FC Cincinnati now, but he still describes the Portland Timbers as family. Even so, Cincinnati’s first Designated Player says he will embrace the chance to face his former club in the expansion team’s home opener this Sunday (5 pm ET | FS1 — Full TV & streaming info).
“I take it as just another game,” said the 28-year-old forward. “But, of course, I would like to win because it’s Portland. I have a lot of colleagues, a lot of friends that play on that team. I think it’s going to be an interesting game. I respect their team a lot, but we also have great players here. We’re just going to go into that game doing everything possible to win.”
Adi was traded from Portland for up to $950,000 in allocation money last July. The Lagos, Nigeria native scored 54 MLS goals during his time with the Timbers and spearheaded an attack that led Portland to the 2015 MLS Cup.
Cincinnati actually has other former Timbers in their ranks. Alvas Powell joined Adi last December to bolster the right side of team’s defense, and Darren Mattocks is Adi's backup at striker after filling the same role in Portland in 2016 and 2017.
Adi left behind strong friendships when he made the jump to MLS’s newest team.
“I speak to them a lot,” he said of recent conversations with old Timbers teammates. “They are very close friends of mine, so we talk a lot... We have banter between ourselves, so we talk about it, and laugh about it. As professional soccer players, this is what we live for. You live for this kind of game, games that give you extra motivation to play against former teammates. As much as you know your strengths, you know their strengths and weaknesses. So you just have to battle it out and try to win the game.”
Cincinnati’s roster is built from pieces and parts of several MLS teams, and head coach Alan Koch is no exception. He is a former member of the Vancouver Whitecaps technical staff, and in that vein he understands the opportunity his players have to test themselves against former colleagues.
“You could see how much it meant to Greg (Garza) to go to Atlanta last weekend," he said. "It’s going to be a huge game this weekend for the guys that used to play there... It will be the same for me when we play against Vancouver. It’s always exciting when you play against your old team, and then we rally around each other to hopefully have success together.”
Adi insisted there is no ill-will toward Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese, despite reported tensions at the end of Adi’s time in Portland. He insists leaving Portland came on his own terms.
“No, no, no, there are no bad feelings at all," Adi said. "The media may forget that I requested the trade. I requested to leave. The coach wanted me to stay. I was the one who said I wanted to leave, so after that there is no bad feeling. The coach is a good friend of mine. We talk now and then. I wish them luck. He wishes me luck, so there are no bad feelings. I consider Portland as family and we will always be family.”