How did the Portland Timbers, Atlanta United build their MLS Cup rosters?

Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Sebastian Blanco - Atlanta United, Portland Timbers

There are many ways to build an MLS Cup-caliber roster.

Big transfer fees and shrewd additions; young players and old; international and domestic talent. The most successful MLS clubs find the right balance between the extremes, which is just what both the Portland Timbers and Atlanta United have done. Over the past few years, both clubs have curated their rosters to culminate with a trip to MLS Cup this Saturday (8 pm ET | FOX, UniMás, TSN, TVAS).

Below is a detailed breakdown of how each teams contributors were acquired, each of them helping their team book a place in the 2018 MLS Cup final.

Designated Players


  • 2017 - Tito Villalba from San Lorenzo (ARG)
  • 2017 - Miguel Almiron from Lanus (ARG)
  • 2017 - Josef Martinez from Torino (ITA)
  • 2018 - Ezequiel Barco from Independiente (ARG)


  • 2011 - Diego Chara from Tolima (COL)
  • 2013 - Diego Valeri from Lanus (ARG)
  • 2014 - Liam Ridgewell from West Brom (ENG)
  • 2015 - Lucas Melano from Lanus (ARG)
  • 2017 - Sebastian Blanco from San Lorenzo (ARG)

As is expected from the wage bill, the stars lead Atlanta and Portland.

Diego Chara, Liam Ridgewell and Hector Villalba were signed as DPs but weren't classified as such under the cap this season, be it under new contracts or their cap hit bought down using allocation money. Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco shared the Timbers' regular-season team-lead for goals; Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron each are finalists for the 2018 Landon Donovan MLS MVP awards. The marquee players for each club have lived up to the billing, and more. Lucas Melano has been the only disappointment of the bunch, with Ezequiel Barco providing a few moments of brilliance over the course of the season.

International signings


  • 2017 - Leandro Gonzalez Pirez from Estudiantes (ARG)
  • 2017 - Chris McCann from Wigan (ENG)
  • 2017 - Greg Garza from Tijuana (MEX)
  • 2017 - Brad Guzan from Middlesbrough (ENG)
  • 2017 - Franco Escobar from Newell's (ARG)
  • 2018 - Eric Remedi from Banfield (ARG)


  • 2013 - Alvas Powell from Portmore (JAM)
  • 2015 - Dairon Asprilla from Petrolera (COL)
  • 2017 - David Guzman from Saprissa (CRC)
  • 2017 - Larry Mabiala from Kayserispor (TUR)
  • 2017 - Bill Tuiloma from Marseille (FRA)
  • 2018 - Julio Cascante from Saprissa (CRC)
  • 2018 - Samuel Armenteros from Benevento (ITA)
  • 2018 - Cristhian Paredes from Club America (MEX)
  • 2018 - Andy Polo from Morelia (MEX)
  • 2018 - Tomas Conechny from San Lorenzo (ARG)
  • 2018 - Jorge Villafaña from Santos Laguna (MEX)

Atlanta don't have the quantity of non-DP international signings as Portland, but those signings are leaned on all the same.

Brad Guzan, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Greg Garza have been first choice when healthy since joining in 2017, just as Eric Remedi has since being signed midway through this season.

The Timbers haven't hit a home run on every single one of their international signings but have gotten great contributions from the group. Alvas Powell has been a staple at fullback for the club for years, while Larrys Mabiala and Andy Polo have started the majority of games this season, and Jorge Villafaña picked up right where he left off after leaving 2015.

Domestic Signings


  • 2017 - Mikey Ambrose via Expansion Draft
  • 2017 - Alec Kann via Expansion Draft
  • 2017 - Jeff Larentowicz via Free Agency
  • 2018 - Sal Zizzo via Free Agency


  • 2011 - Jake Gleeson via free transfer
  • 2018 - Andres Flores via free transfer
  • 2018 - Steve Clark via waivers

The standout of the domestic signings is Jeff Larentowicz, who has played in all but one of Atlanta's 68 all-time MLS regular-season games. He's been a stalwart for the club, adding much-needed steel and experience to the high-flying attacking side.

Andres Flores followed head coach Giovanni Savarese from the Cosmos to the Timbers, making 26 appearances in his first MLS season. 



  • 2017 - Michael Parkhurst from Columbus Crew SC
  • 2017 - Romario Williams from Montreal Impact
  • 2017 - Kevin Kratz from Philadelphia Union
  • 2018 - Darlington Nagbe from Portland Timbers


  • 2016 - Zarek Valentin from Montreal Impact
  • 2017 - Jeff Attinella from Minnesota United
  • 2017 - Lawrence Olum from Sporting KC

Both clubs have excelled in the trade market.

Michael Parkhurst has featured in all but two of ATL's regular season games over the last two years as captain and Darlington Nagbe, acquired from Saturday's opponent, added another dimension to the side this year.  The Timbers, meanwhile, acquired three regular members of the starting XI via trades over the last two years. 

SuperDraft and Homegrowns


  • 2017 - Andrew Carleton (Homegrown)
  • 2017 - Miles Robinson (SuperDraft)
  • 2017 - Julian Gressel (SuperDraft)
  • 2018 - George Bello (Homegrown)


  • 2016 - Marco Farfan (Homegrown)
  • 2017 - Jeremy Ebobisse (SuperDraft)

The Timbers and ATL UTD have gotten good contributions from the SuperDraft. 

Jeremy Ebobisse has claimed Portland's starting center forward spot while Julian Gressel was last season's AT&T Rookie of the Year and was tied for the team lead in assists this year. Not a bad draft class.