The Portland Timbers signed winger Yimmi Chara last week to a new DP deal. But where does Jeremy Ebobisse fit, especially with a new DP striker likely to arrive?
The Portland Timbers are busy making moves. After signing Sebastian Blanco to a Designated Player deal to join with compatriot Diego Valeri, the pair have been the central force in the Timbers attack.
As is the case in the roster-defined Major League Soccer, the formation of those three DP slots is the central decision that defines the team, and for the Portland Timbers, it has revolved around Blanco and Valeri.
However, this offseason, not only did the Timbers terminate the contract of third DP Brian Fernandez due to ‘failure to comply with the league’s substance abuse and behavioural health (SABH) program’, per Paul Tenorio; they also restructured Valeri’s contract, buying him down with Target Allocation Money such that he also no longer takes up a precious DP slot.
That gives Portland Blanco and Valeri, the duo that has made the team sing in recent seasons, and two DP slots to fill, which they have every intention of doing so. In fact, they have already made good on that intention, signing the brother of star defensive midfielder Diego Chara, Yimmi Chara, from Atletico Mineiro last week.
Chara, 28, is a quick, direct, goalscoring winger who will complement Blanco on the opposite flank and could flourish with Valeri feeding both passes from central positions. With the other Chara anchoring the midfield, there is the makings of a very strong midfield and frontline for the Timbers. It is easy to see how they could be good in 2020.
But they reportedly still want a striker. Per Paul Tenorio and Sam Stejskal of The Athletic, the Timbers are still keen on bringing a DP centre-forward in alongside Chara. They want to build one of the premier offensive units in MLS, and as the spending around the league explodes to previously unseen levels, the Timbers believe that they too must now invest heavily.
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However, while spending is all well and good, displaying a positive intention to fix their problems as they look to make a more substantial MLS Cup run, the Timbers have an extremely effective attacker who they have largely overlooked at crucial moments in the past.
Jeremy Ebobisse is a very capable centre-forward — he can also play out wide, and has done successfully, though he seems to be best-suited and most impactful when playing through the middle. He scored 11 goals in 2310 minutes last season. That is nothing to be scoffed at. But as a fourth overall selection in the 2017 SuperDraft, he is not a flashy, big-name player who makes the heart flutter and raises the bright lights. He is not especially skilful, not majorly exciting, and his game does not revolve around scoring goals, although he is capable in this department. But he is effective.
Should the Timbers sign Chara and another DP centre-forward, Ebobisse will only see his role further diminished. Obviously, depth and rotation is important and having several different options is critical throughout a long season, but the Timbers might be better served investing that precious third DP slot in another position with Ebobisse more than able to fulfil the striker duties.
Yimmi Chara is a very exciting signing. And with Fernandez’s departure, it is a smart one. But simply adding another attacker to the mix for the sake of it might be one step further. Ebobisse is an effective player who could be drowned out, and that would short-sighted of the Timbers.