The Portland Timbers did so well the last time they mined Argentina for a MLS difference-maker, they’ve decided to try it again. Twice.
The club announced Tuesday that it has signed striker Gastón Fernández and center back Norberto Paparatto, two Argentine players the Timbers are hopeful pay as many dividends as midfielder Diego Valeri did during the club’s transformative year in 2013. Per MLS and club policy, terms of the transactions were not disclosed.
The Timbers were first linked to the 30-year-old Fernández (above) late last month, but the official word on Tuesday adds immediate firepower to a front line that appears set to lose Jamaican forward Ryan Johnson overseas. Fernández – who grew up in Lanús, the same hometown as Valeri – is now arguably the team’s top scoring threat, and will compete for time with Frenchman Frederique Piquionne and Argentine Maxi Urruti, traded to Portland from Toronto last year.
Fernández made his debut with famed Argentine club River Plate in 2002 and has spent the bulk of his career in his native country, scoring 48 goals in 224 appearances, aside from a brief spells with Mexican sides Monterrey (2006-7) and Tigres UANL (2008-10).
"We are extremely pleased to add a player the caliber of Gastón Fernández to our club,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said in a statement. “It was our priority to find a striker that was the right fit for our group on many different levels. We had a specific type of player in mind, someone that could create goals but also have chemistry with our other quality attacking pieces. We feel Gastón will not only bring that final third production but he will be a compliment to the team and our collective play.”
Papretto, 30, has been a fixture with Argentine club Tigre since 2007, earning the honor of captain for the 2013-14 Inicial season, and helped lead the team to a runner-up finish in the 2012 Copa Sudamericana tournament.
He joins a backline that was plagued by injury last season and allowed five goals in the decisive two-game Western Conference Championship series against Real Salt Lake. Timbers regular Futty Danso and newcomer Pa Modou Kah carried the load down the stretch after former French international and Manchester United regular Mikaël Silvestre suffered a torn ACL in September.
“One of our objectives in the offseason was to add another central defender with a specific profile, and we feel Paparatto is the ideal fit,” Porter said. “He is technically and tactically sound and will bring another player in our locker room that has experience and leadership qualities playing at high level for many years.
"Norberto will also help with our aerial ability, which is a critical component we wanted to enhance in our team. We look forward to integrating him into an already deep backline.”