PORTLAND, Ore. — As they proceed into the offseason, the Portland Timbers’ roster plans remain in limbo.
As the side seeks a new agreement with club legend Diego Valeri and attempts to determine the future of Designated Player Brian Fernandez, other deals are also in the works to bring the club together for their 10th season in Major League Soccer.
No deal in the history of the Timbers has been watched as intently as the ongoing negotiations with Valeri. Since a reported impasse between the Timbers and their star revealed late in the season, there has been little news from either side.
“He is a player that the club loves and respects in every capacity,” Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson said of Valeri at a press conference Tuesday. "He is somebody that we acknowledge has been instrumental in the club’s success and is a talented player. On the other side, it has got to be what both parties want.”
Although Wilkinson stressed the Timbers’ desire to get a deal done with Valeri, he also emphasized the need for flexibility under the MLS salary cap in order to bring in new players and retain those already with the side.
Two of the Timbers’ bright spots in 2019 were right back Jorge Moreira, on loan from Argentine side River Plate, and midfielder Cristhian Paredes, on loan from Mexican side Club America. The Timbers are looking to bring back both Moreira and Paredes on a permanent basis, according to Wilkinson, but it appears neither will come cheaply. Paredes, in particular, presents a challenge, as the Timbers are negotiating to prevent the 21-year-old Paraguayan from occupying a Young Designated Player slot on the Timbers’ roster, Wilkinson revealed.
Additionally, goalkeeper Steve Clark, the 2019 Supporters’ Player of the Year, is now out of contract. While Wilkinson confirmed the Timbers retain his MLS rights and will make a bona fide offer to Clark, the goalkeeper’s future remains up in the air.
If they can go into the 2020 season with an open DP slot, the Timbers will look to fill it with either a winger or a forward, said Wilkinson.
“It has got to be the right type of player and the DP slot will either be used on the forward position or the winger position, but what we need is flexibility within the budget to be able to make the moves necessary short-term and long-term to be successful,” he said. "What we don’t want to do is tie up three DP slots and find ourselves in a marketplace where we can’t fit in the winger within the cap that we have or the forward within the cap that we have.”
Fernandez, meanwhile, presents a different sort of puzzle to the Timbers. After a rampant start to his time in Portland, scoring six goals in his first five league appearances with the side, Fernandez struggled down the stretch and voluntarily entered the league’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program.
Fernandez remains in the SABH program and is not yet able to train with the rest of the team, but the striker has returned to Portland.
“We are hopeful that everything gets back on track,” Wilkinson said. “As we continue, his contract is with the club.”