The Portland Timbers parted ways with one of the starters from their MLS Cup run on Friday, announcing they had transferred defender Jorge Villafana to Liga MX outfit Santos Laguna.
Per league and club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed. Mexican outlet Medio Tiempo reports that Villafana signed a three-year deal with the Mexican club, with a transfer fee around $1 million.
“With the current structure in MLS, this transfer is necessary in order for the club to acquire allocation dollars to keep the core group of players together as much as possible,” said Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson, in a statement provided by the team. “Jorge has been a tremendous player for us, and we wish him great success in this mutually beneficial move.”
Villafana, 26, made 52 regular-season appearances for the Timbers over two seasons spanning 2014-15, primarily as a left back. He enjoyed his best season in a Timbers uniform this year, starting 33 of 34 regular-season games and all six playoff games for Portland, contributing a goal and five assists.
Villafana's story is unique among MLS players in that he earned his break by winning the inaugural edition of the Univision reality show "Sueño MLS" in 2007, signing a professional contract that summer with Chivas USA, where he remained through the 2013 MLS season.
Should the reported transfer fee be accurate, Villafana would go through the Allocation Process should he return to MLS, as would any former MLS player returning to the league after joining a non-MLS team for a fee over $500,000.
Based in the northern Mexican city of Torreon, five-time champions Santos Laguna recently have been one of the most successful Liga MX teams. They won the 2015 Liga MX Torneo Clausura and the 2014 Copa MX. Though they finished 15th in the recent Apertura 2015 tournament, they have qualified for the knockout stage of the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League, where they will face the LA Galaxy in the quarterfinals.
“This was a win-win for Jorge and for our club; it was an opportunity that neither one of us could pass up,” said Timbers head coach Caleb Porter. “We wish Jorge all the best and thank him for his contributions to our championship.”