SEATTLE – For most players, joining an MLS team as a midseason acquisition usually requires at least some sort of adjustment period.
That hasn't been the case for Portland Timbers forward Brian Fernandez. The Argentine has been lighting up the league since the moment he signed with Portland as a Designated Player in May. On Sunday, he didn’t stop, scoring two more goals on the Seattle Sounders, including a 51st-minute game-winner that gave the Timbers a massive 2-1 Cascadia Cup victory in the house of their biggest rival.
Fernandez is scoring at a simply torrid rate, as he’s now got eight goals in nine MLS matches – a total that isn’t even factoring in the three goals he has scored in U.S. Open Cup play, with two of those coming against the Sounders.
So, how has he managed to pull all of this off so fast?
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“I think two things,” Timbers head coach Gio Savarese said after Sunday’s match. “One is his instincts. He just comes in and plays the way he feels he should play. And I think the group has allowed him to adapt very quickly, they’ve helped him to understand everything about the team. They’ve helped him in so many different ways to adapt. And he’s done what we’ve asked him all the time, so he’s adapted very well, very quickly.”
Fernandez isn’t just stuffing the statsheet. He’s doing it with flair, providing highlight-reel maneuvers and finishes along the way. During Sunday’s match, he drew the ire of the home crowd a few times throughout the match following his goal celebrations and for a crunching tackle on Sounders defender Kim Kee-hee that drew him a yellow card.
Speaking through a translator after the match, Fernandez admitted there’s a little bit of a different type of buzz that comes with scoring on a rival in their own venue.
“To come to [another] stadium, especially in a big rivalry like this and to be able to score and quiet people, it’s beautiful,” Fernandez said. “It’s part of the game. I don’t mean to be condescending, I don’t mean to be arrogant about it, it’s just one of those beautiful things about football when you score against your biggest rival. It’s one of those great feelings.”
With Fernandez, it’s constant energy, something that Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark said rubs off on his teammates. The result has been a blistering run of form that has Portland charging up the Western Conference table since his arrival, with Sunday’s victory moving the Timbers to 8-8-4 and just two points out of the last playoff spot in the Western Conference at 28 points.
“Every single training session, this guy is charged up,” Clark said. “He’s like a maniac. He’s going to score in a big game for you, he’s going to score in Tuesday training at 10:30 in the morning. That’s just who he is. He scores goals. He brings a lot of tempo to training. He’s always trying to win, he has a goalkeeper’s mentality to striker, which is rare. I think he should get a lot of credit for that."