ORLANDO, Fla. – After weeks of rumors and reports connecting the two parties, the Portland Timbers finally announced the signing of Peruvian winger Andy Polo on Wednesday.
The 23-year-old comes to Portland on a year-long loan from Liga MX club Monarcas Morelia. He’ll line up on the wing for the Timbers, adding talent to an already-potent attack featuring reigning league MVP Diego Valeri, Designated Player winger Sebastian Blanco and star striker Fanendo Adi. The club used Targeted Allocation Money in the acquisition.
He’ll give Portland a little bit of a different look on offense, bringing speed and a more direct style of play than former Timbers midfielder Darlington Nagbe, who was traded to Atlanta in December.
“We don’t see him as a replacement for any player that we’ve lost, we see it as a different attribute,” Timbers GM Gavin Wilkson told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “In the closing stages of last season we identified that we needed a player that could change games, somebody that was good with the ball at their feet, somebody that could penetrate with and without the ball, and with Polo we found the closest thing that we could while fitting into the TAM and all those other things relative to what we needed.”
The Timbers initially attempted to acquire Polo on a full transfer, not on loan. Wilkinson said that the year-long loan with a purchase option ended up being a smarter move for the club, indicating that the eventual purchase option comes at a lower cost than they would’ve paid in a full transfer this winter.
“It was later in the process. Once we started looking at the fundamentals behind it, the fact that Morelia wanted to keep the player for the World Cup because there’s a certain amount of funds distributed to clubs for players who play at it, and once we started breaking it down there became different layers. The compensation we were willing to give up to get the player in a one-off transaction [didn’t match], so loaning him with, I would say, a low threshold as an automatic trigger to purchase made more sense.”
Wilkinson is hoping that Polo won’t be the final significant acquisition of the offseason for the Timbers, who don’t have a pick in the first two rounds of the SuperDraft. The longtime Portland exec said that the club are still targeting a central midfielder to complement Diego Chara and David Guzman and another forward to push Adi and second-year player Jeremy Ebobisse.
He added that Chara will likely be healthy in time for the season opener after breaking a bone in his foot in the Timbers’ playoff series against Houston.
“We’re still looking to add a good midfielder and the preferable profile is [a No. 8] that can sit if needed. So somebody that can play the six, but ideally we’re looking at somebody that can complement our current group of midfielders,” he said. “And then we’re also looking at another forward. We moved Darren Mattocks so there’s a little bit of a void up top, we’ve got Adi and then we’ve got Jeremy, but we need another piece up there as well.”
Wilkinson gave no comment on MLSsoccer.com’s report from earlier this week that the Timbers made Columbus Crew SC an offer for attacker Justin Meram, but separate sources indicated on Wednesday that the parties remain far apart on asking price and that talks are currently at an impasse.