The Portland Timbers have reached a verbal agreement with Estudiantes for a deal with Argentine youth international midfielder David Ayala, sources tell

The deal is not 100% done but is close. The agreement is for $2.6 million and performance-based add-ons, while Estudiantes will retain a sell-on percentage. Ayala will be a U22 Initiative signing, meaning Portland will not have to factor his acquisition cost into the salary cap and he will hit the budget at a reduced rate. Under 2021 MLS roster rules, that figure was $150,000 given his age (19).

Ayala can play either in defensive midfield or a box-to-box role. He already has 33 first-team appearances with Estudiantes while being a key figure for the Argentine U-17 national team and was expected to feature at last year's U-20 World Cup until the tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ayala would be Portland's second U22 Initiative signing following attacker Santiago Moreno, who arrived last summer from Colombian side América de Cali. Portland plan to use their third U22 Initiative slot at some point either this window or in the summer.

Given his ability to play either midfield role, Ayala can play alongside captain Diego Chara, who signed a contract extension last week, or more box-to-box options such as Eryk Williamson, Cristhian Paredes and Andy Polo.

Portland began preseason training sessions this week and open their 2022 MLS campaign against defending Supporters' Shield winners New England Revolution on Feb. 26.