Forward incoming? Portland Timbers GM Ned Grabavoy talks offseason approach

Ned Grabavoy

After a down season for the Portland Timbers in 2022, first-year general manager Ned Grabavoy is tasked with helping restore the club's status as a perennial Audi MLS Cup Playoffs contender.

The former Timbers midfielder-turned-executive addressed Portland media on Thursday, fresh off the news that he's been promoted to the new role. Grabavoy was serving as the club's interim chief soccer officer following the departure of Gavin Wilkinson, plus had previously worked in the club's scouting department and as technical director.

It's been a big offseason for Portland already, with the club completing the club-record signing of Brazilian attacker Evander in December. And Grabavoy hinted Thursday at some more roster movement to come, with an eye towards strengthening what he believes is still a solid foundation.

"Obviously we fell short of our goals and expectations last season," Grabavoy said. "But if you look at the previous 4-5 years, we were able to sustain a level of success that's needed at this club. So we're constantly evaluating how those changes can happen, who it could be. That's amongst a number of players.

"Having said that, I don't think we should discredit this group," Grabavoy added of the MLS Cup 2021 finalists. "These are players that were proven in this league. I think we have a competitive roster. I think for us collectively, players and staff, the hope is that we bounce back and we show the rest of the league that we're still very capable."

Forward help?

In Evander, Grabavoy said the hope is Portland have landed a club cornerstone. The 24-year-old brings an impressive profile with him to MLS, having established himself as a game-breaking attacker for his previous club, FC Midtjylland in the Danish SuperLiga.

"That's an extremely exciting one for us as a club, both short and long term because we feel that we have a very talented player that can help us win now and hopefully will be at the club for a long time," Grabavoy said.

That acquisition qualifies as a marque move, but Grabavoy hinted that another attacking signing might be on the horizon, highlighting Portland's forward group as one additional area of potential need.

The club currently has Felipe Mora and Jaroslaw Niezgoda under contract, though both struggled with injuries last season, and Niezgoda's Designated Player status means the club could stand to gain flexibility from a theoretical departure. Veteran Dairon Asprilla is also set to return. (Editor's note: On Friday, Portland announced they've brought back striker Nathan Fogaça.)

"Moving forward right now, I think that the biggest need for our group is to find another option at forward to help give us additional options and get [head coach] Gio [Savarese] additional options to help lead the front line," Grabavoy said. "And from there I think we are a bit limited right now just in terms of where we're at with the cap and roster slots.

"Having said that, it's a goal of mine and everybody else's to help strengthen the group as much as we can. So we'll continue to look at all opportunities that would provide us the ability to do that."

Grabavoy said he plans on approaching that particular decision with a long-term approach, mentioning the league's Young Designated Player mechanism as one potential route. Either way, such a move would give the Timbers a new look in attack in 2023 as the club moves forward in the post-Diego Valeri era.

"Aside from the type of player, I do think we're looking at a situation that could potentially give us some flexibility long-term in terms of the commitment that we would make," Grabavoy said. "I think as we look forward to where we would be at within the 2024 season, we would potentially have the ability to add potentially a Young Designated Player [at forward].

"So I think we need to try and find one, a player that can help Gio and the club win now, but at the same time maybe gives us flexibility as we go towards the summer and we go towards next season, to make sure that we're adding a player that can help the club over the next 4-5 seasons."