FRISCO, Texas – One man’s loss was another man’s gain on Saturday night at Toyota Stadium.
With MVP candidate Diego Valeri sidelined with hip injury, Timbers head coach Caleb Porter inserted Sebastian Blanco into the all-important No. 10 role. The decision paid off handsomely, with Blanco scoring his first goal since signing a Designated Player contract with the Timbers this winter to give Portland up a 2-1 lead in the 71st minute of their 2-2 draw at FC Dallas.
“It’s kind of been the theme all year,” Porter said after Saturday’s match. “We’ve had a lot of injuries, guys have been out, and the next guy steps in and gets the job done. We saw that again today. I thought Blanco was really good in that role.”
The goal came as a relief for Blanco, who had seen nine of his Timbers teammates score before he hit the back of the net on Saturday.
“I felt a lot of pressure because almost the whole team has scored aside from me,” Blanco said via translator. “But things were coming together. I’ve been working hard as well. It’s not essential for the goal to come. For my game it’s also important to create chances and also do whatever helps the team get points. I hope going forward things will keep getting better.”
Added Porter: “It’s good for him. Obviously he hadn’t scored yet, so for him to get his first in a Timbers uniform that never hurts. His confidence will continue to grow. I thought he had a very good game.”
Blanco said he was happy to not only have the opportunity at the No. 10, but to put his team in a position to steal three points from a stadium that FC Dallas have turned into a fortress.
It was especially rewarding for Blanco considering the talent he was stepping in for in Valeri, who has five goals and four assists in eight games this year.
“It was tough, obviously, to replace a player like Diego, not only because of what he means football-wise but also what he means for the team off the field,” Blanco said. “For me, it was a great responsibility. Luckily, I was able to respond, I think, in a good way, scoring my first goal and helping the team as well to get a result.”
While it doesn’t appear Valeri will miss an extended amount of time, Blanco’s performance in his absence gives Porter and the Timbers confidence their attack will stay potent for as long as it takes.
“We’ve been pretty fierce with our attack this year and we showed that again [Saturday], especially with one of our top players Diego Valeri being out,” Porter said. “I thought our team played as a whole played really well.”