Jonathan Rodríguez gives Portland Timbers a "big-time player"

Jonathan Rodríguez - Portland Timbers

A promising start to the Portland Timbers' 2024 season just received a boost.

The Timbers officially introduced star forward Jonathan Rodríguez, known to some by his nickname "Cabecita," as their newest Designated Player signing on Thursday.

As the 30-year-old Uruguayan international arrives from Club América, he joins Brazilian No. 10 Evander as a final-third figurehead – with general manager Ned Grabavoy calling him their latest "big-time player."

"We made some very, very key additions this offseason," Grabavoy said at Thursday's introductory press conference. "This is, without question, certainly one of the biggest, one of the most important."

Goals on his mind

Rodríguez's proven goalscoring history fuels that belief, recently starring for one of Liga MX's biggest and most successful clubs.

Rodríguez tallied 21g/7a in 65 appearances following his arrival to Club América in 2022, instilling hope he can follow in the footsteps of other Liga MX strikers who have seen their production translate upon moving to MLS. In recent years, Sporting Kansas City's Alan Pulido and Seattle Sounders FC's Raúl Ruidíaz both starred in the Mexican top flight before establishing themselves among MLS's most efficient No. 9s.

"I think it's exciting for all Portland Timbers fans. But without question a lot of that's because of the success that Jonathan's had at multiple stops in the Mexican league," Grabavoy explained. "Club América right now is probably one of the best, if not the best club\], in the entire region. You expect to see them compete all the way through the [Concacaf Champions Cup that they're in right now. I think the ability for us to bring a player of this level at this time for our group is huge."

"I think looking at Jonathan and his skillset and why it made a lot of sense to us – one was without question the experience on the level that he's played at. That was important for our group right now," Grabavoy added.

For his part, Rodríguez feels ready to hit the ground running with his new club, potentially as soon as this Saturday when the Timbers host the Philadelphia Union on Matchday 6 (10:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).

"I feel really well. I haven’t stopped [playing] since I was in Mexico," Rodríguez said in Spanish. "I missed a few games [at América], but it was the coach’s decision to leave me out. I was training, participating with the club’s affiliate. I did a preseason. I’m very happy.

"I can’t wait for this weekend and to get my visa so I can play. I’m waiting for that moment."

More to come?

Rodríguez arrives as the Timbers have shown positive early signs in their first season under new head coach Phil Neville. They're third in the Western Conference (7 points; 2W-1L-1D), enjoying success even when not at full strength.

That's instilled hope for a bounceback campaign, and perhaps contention for silverware, after Portland missed the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs in 2022 and 2023.

"That’s why I came [to win MLS Cup]," Rodriguez said. "Both me and the club want that: make the playoffs and try to win the trophy. It’s obviously a big motivation."

A DP No. 9 was the most critical need on Portland's roster, and Rodríguez follows the wintertime addition of two Canadian internationals: defender Kamal Miller and goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau. But they might not be done in the transfer market.

"I would tell you the next objective for us as a group is: How do we continue to add maybe players that provide a bit more depth in a few positions on the roster?" Grabavoy said. "How do we add players that are a little bit younger? Maybe not quite ready to help us right away, but we feel like we've got good players in the pipeline.

" ... So I think, for the time being, we'll continue to assess the roster. Injuries happen, things happen, it continues to change and evolve. We'll stay patient with it, but we'll continue to assess."