Portland Timbers hope first MLS goal for Yimmi Chara is a sign of things to come

Yimmi Chara - Andy Polo - Hugging

With Sebastian Blanco lost for the season with a torn ACL, there's perhaps no more consequential player in trying to pick up the slack than Yimmi Chara for the Portland Timbers.

The 29-year-old was brought in as a Designated Player before the start of the season, expected to help lead Portland's front line ahead of his brother Diego — the club's longtime stalwart in the middle of the park. But he's still working his way back to full fitness after getting injured at the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, rendering him unable to make his expected contributions in the attack to this point in the season.

The younger Chara showed the type of play he can bring to the table in Portland's 1-1 draw against the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday, though, starting the contest and scoring a pretty opener in the 33rd minute, set up by Diego. The novelty of the sibling connection aside, the Timbers hope that Yimmi's first MLS goal is a sign of things to come as they adapt to life without Blanco, one of the best attackers in the league.

"Yimmi showed a lot of quality today, he played an excellent game, was able to score a beautiful goal," Timbers coach Gio Savarese said at his postgame video conference. "We played him the minutes that we thought he needed and he continues to advance, he continues to get stronger and better. Hopefully he's going to be fully fit soon to be able to play 90, we're working on it. But today his performance was outstanding.

"And then, what am I going to say about Diego? We know that he's constant, he's always one that you can rely on. He's always bringing top-level quality to the team. It was great to see both of them have a very good performance today."

It's been a long road back from the injury, but Yimmi Chara said that he felt gratified to find the net on Wednesday as he works his way closer to full fitness.

"I'm very happy," he said. "This is something I've been looking for, for a long time, and something I've been working very hard to achieve. Obviously I had an injury that didn't allow me to play a few games, but I continue to prepare the best way that I know and thank God, I was able to score tonight."

As far as Wednesday's result, Savarese said he was pleased with his team's performance, despite another late concession that forced them to split the points. The external factors that the Timbers dealt with leading up to the game aren't excuses, the coach said, but certainly complicated matters as poor air quality in Portland meant the team couldn't train normally. The club is traveling back to Portland on Wednesday night and will turn back around for a rematch in San Jose on Saturday.

"I've said it many times, it's incredible the group that we have," Savarese said. "I'm so proud of the guys, they have faced so many different things. And this week has been very tough, not being able to have that good and clean air to be able to have a normal training, maybe we could have had a good chance to be able to do a little bit better movements. I think sometimes we found those movements, sometimes we had to push to find them. And it's always difficult when you don't have the chance to be able to practice, just to have everybody being sharp, but overall the guys had a great game. They worked very hard, they did everything I asked them to do. We created chances, we scored a beautiful goal and I had the chance to be able to play many players some minutes today and I'm excited for what I saw."

It's been a challenging stretch, both physically and mentally, but the Timbers were right there for a three-point result on Wednesday only to see a handful of narrow misses on goal. Yimmi Chara said he's been pleased at the clip the team is generating chances, and that he believes it's just a matter of time before things even out and the team starts to convert and get back to the form that saw them emerge as champions from the MLS is Back Tournament.

"I think it's a very important point," Chara said. "We have created a lot of chances for goals, unfortunately we haven't scored all of them. I think we have to keep trying because you will see the goals at some point in time. We all know the kind of team that we have and we all know what we're doing throughout the week. So we have to continue working hard to achieve what we want and to continue scoring goals."