Sebastian Blanco, Diego Valeri - Portland Timbers - hug

Diego Valeri couldn't be less surprised by Sebastian Blanco's excellent 2018 season.

Valeri has seen it for years. The Portland Timbers pair grew up together at the same club, Lanus in Argentina; Valeri is two years Blanco's senior but the pair spent about a decade and a half together at Lanus, from the academy setup to the senior side. 

In fact, Valeri would tell you that Blanco was just as great last year, too.

GOAL: Sebastian Blanco nudges Portland ahead after a slaloming Valeri run

"He's been really good for the team. From him arriving, he's been fantastic," Valeri told on Tuesday. "People probably put their eye on him this year with some goals, but he's been fantastic since arriving. He brought us competition, quality, goals, he works hard for the team – it doesn't surprise me to see people putting the eye on him this season. I know him very well, he's a high-level, elite player."

Valeri (10g/12a) and Blanco (10g/11a) are top two in both goals and assists for the Timbers this season. It's the type of goal contributions from the midfield and out wide that most coaches dream of.

With that kind of productivity underneath the striker, Jeremy Ebobisse knows his role as a forward in this team is simple: accentuate the Argentinian duo and good things will happen.

"If I find a way to compliment what they're good at it makes their lives easier, but it also makes me look really good," Ebobisse said. "If I find the spaces that they want me to be in, chances are I'll be getting a goal."

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Ebobisse only earned the starting job two months ago and still has just seven regular-season starts in MLS since his debut in 2017. The 21-year-old is learning fast, in part because of Valeri and Blanco; the trio has scored or assisted on all four of the Timbers' four goals in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs to date.

"I'm learning a lot about movement and final third actions because of how good they are," Ebobisse said. "They're really helpful and supportive."

For all the chemistry Blanco and Valeri show on the field, it helps outside of the pitch, too. Valeri helped Blanco settle in Portland, showing him around town, admitting it was "easy" because Blanco is a "simple guy."

"When you have countrymen, you share the same culture, you spend a lot of time in the locker room," Valeri said. "Now, we have four Argentinian people here, so that's really cool."