The Portland Timbers are hoping to make an announcement Tuesday on the first of what could be several player acquisitions over the course of the summer.
The club is hoping to address both ends of the field, with Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson telling MLSsoccer.com that they are planning to add a Designated Player target forward with both size and speed during the summer transfer window.
“We’ve got quite a sizable sum to spend that’s being allowed to us to use to develop this group,” Wilkinson said in a Monday phone interview on the heels of his return from a two-week European scouting trip. “The system that we play in, which the 4-2-3-1 or a modified 4-3-3, we need someone up top who can occupy defenders and with occupying defenders also stretch the field.”
Wilkinson said his scouting trip took him to Norway, Spain and Denmark, which included taking in 16 games and “many, many meetings.” He said the team’s sluggish start to the season, just one win through 10 games, didn’t precipitate the trip and is standard operating procedure for looking at possible acquisitions during summer transfer windows. But there’s no question the product on the field has left a lot to be desired.
The Timbers have scored 13 goals and are in last place in the Western Conference.
“Performance is very subjective, and obviously the results dictate what the consensus is, but for us, you have players that maybe aren’t performing like we had hoped,” Wilkinson said. “And you have to make sure there’s a succession plan in those positions.”
Frédéric Piquionne, who also plays the striker position, started the season on the roster but has been away for the past several weeks on what head coach Caleb Porter called “family business.” Wilkinson said an announcement on Piquionne’s situation will also come on Tuesday.
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The club’s other major offseason acquisition was central defender Norberto Paparatto, who after starting four of Portland’s first five games, has not seen action in the last five.
Porter has pointed to lapses on the backline over the first two months of the season – including allowing an easy Robbie Keane header goal in stoppage time in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy – as one of the reasons for the team’s struggles. He said following the Galaxy game that moves could be made to address the defense.
“I think with all foreigners it takes time,” Wilkinson said. “With someone like [Reigning MLS Newcomer of the Year, Diego] Valeri, they transition very, very quickly and they have an immediate impact. Others come in and they need a transition period. …
"I think what you start to see over time is will they fit into the system, will they be productive over time, and those are decisions that we look at it daily. … We were looking at adding a few pieces that would make the club productive moving forward, and that’s not always immediately productive and it’s shown over the first couple games that sometimes it does take time. They’re human beings and they each have their own course.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.