It has been less than a week since Blanco joined his new side, first meeting up with the Timbers during their preseason camp in Tucson, Ariz., then returning with the team to Portland for his first days in the Rose City.
“I think I found a really good group of human beings here and everyone has been so welcoming,” Blanco told the press through a translator after practice on Wednesday. “I think I see the potential of the team, particularly from the midfield forward. I think we have the potential to be a really strong team and to compete for important things this year.”
Of course, the Timbers are not Blanco’s first stop outside of his native Argentina; four years spent with Ukrainian side Metalist Kharkiv, and another with English side West Bromwich Albion helped prepare him to make the transition to Major League Soccer.
Timbers head coach Caleb Porter pointed out Blanco’s time overseas and how that has helped him integrate with the team.
“He understands every word I say, in terms of English,” said Porter. “That is sometimes an issue in the transition. I think it really helped that he spent some time in England. He has played in different climates, he has traveled, he had a year of learning English; he had to grind there a little bit and it didn’t come easy. I think that was really important in helping him to transition here.”
Asked about his time overseas, however, Blanco instead chose to focus on the here and now.
“I think every league is different and everything helps to adapt to where you are,” he told the press. “We are here, working to make the best of it, doing the best that we can to help the team.”
But, when asked about the currently chilly weather in Portland, Blanco says that it doesn’t phase him.
“I lived in Ukraine,” Blanco replied with a laugh, “so everything is relative.”
His European experience is not the only thing that has helped Blanco settle into his new side. Valeri, the Timbers’ “Troesma,” was his teammate at Lanus from 2006 to 2009 and played a key role in bringing Blanco to the club and helping him to settle in.
“I had a lot of opportunities to talk to him before coming here,” Blanco said. “I have known him for a long time and he was very important in my decision to come here. We talked and we shared moments together, so it is really nice to be able to share this tournament again with him. He has been instrumental and obviously he has shared a lot of the knowledge that he has. How important he has become for the team and the city, sharing those things with him is going to help me a lot.”