Timbers announce roster status - Blanco, Niezgoda to depart
A number of players from 2023 will also not be returning to PTFC in 2024.
With the MLS deadline for eliminated teams to inform the league of their roster status passing last week, the Portland Timbers have announced who’s staying and going.
A slew of players did not have their contract options picked up. Some players are still in negotiations to stay, but others are not. The biggest name departing the Rose City: Sebastian Blanco. The Timbers legend’s contract expires at the end of the year, and he will not be donning the green & gold anymore.
Let’s dig into who’s staying, who’s going, and what it means for the rest of Portland’s offseason:
As of today the Timbers currently have 21 players under contract for 2024. That includes the bulk of the starting XI for the team, along with one player who had his option picked up for next season: Nathan Fogaça. The Brazilian striker spent the end of the 2023 season on loan with USL side San Antonio FC, and the Timbers have picked up his option to stay with Portland in 2024.
With Nathan in the fold, here is how Portland’s roster shakes out:
Goalkeepers (2): Aljaz Ivacic, Hunter Sulte
Defenders (6): Miguel Araujo, Claudio Bravo, Larrys Mabiala, Zac McGraw, Juan David Mosquera, Dario Zuparic
Midfielders (8): David Ayala, Diego Chara, Yimmi Chara, Evander, Marvin Loría, Santiago Moreno, Cristhian Paredes, Eryk Williamson
Forwards (5): Antony, Dairon Asprilla, Nathan Fogaça, Tega Ikoba, Felipe Mora
Now, don’t get too attached to some of those names because a few of them are still expected to leave this offseason.
Previous reporting by Tom Bogert of The Athletic has revealed that a number of players still under contract will likely be leaving the club. Timbers GM Ned Grabavoy has shared that Aljaz Ivacic is not in the club’s plans for 2024, and they are expected to move him elsewhere. Ivacic was suspended for the final three games of the MLS season for reportedly using threatening language towards team staff.
In addition, Bogert reported that defender Dario Zuparic has also asked for a trade. There has been no news since the initial report, but with a major change in head coach for next season there is a high degree of possibility that Zuparic may be gone by first kick.
Additionally, it appears that Yimmi Chara and the Timbers are set to part ways as well. The Designated Player attacker has had a rocky last few seasons in Portland, and him leaving the roster (whether via transfer or contract buy-out) would open up a key DP spot for Portland this offseason.
Outside of the above, the core of Portland’s roster is intact. The likes of Evander, Diego Chara, Cristhian Paredes, Santiago Moreno, and Zac McGraw all appear set to be wearing green & gold next year.
The biggest news from the roster update is that Sebastian Blanco is set to end his time as a Portland Timber. The 35-year-old Argentine attacker is out of contract at the end of the year, and while there were rumblings of Portland trying to bring him back at a lower number, he will not be signing a new deal with the Timbers.
Blanco’s departure carries much more emotional impact than on-field impact, in particular with regards to his performances in the past two seasons. Blanco is a certified Timbers legend, and has been at the heart of some of the biggest Timbers achievements of the past five years. He was named Player of the Tournament when Portland won the MLS is Back tournament in Orlando in the summer of 2020, and was a key piece of Portland’s runs to the MLS Cup final in 2018 and 2021.
His recent years have been riddled with injury, however. A lingering knee issue has prevented Blanco from hitting those heights of a few years ago, and his contributions on the field have diminished.
Blanco’s departure deserves a whole post to itself — and you can bet your overpriced stadium beer that that one’s coming this week — but he still is the highest profile name listed as leaving on the team’s press release.
Another name headed out the door is Jaroslaw Niezgoda. The Polish forward has had a tumultuous Timbers tenure, and tallied 20 goals across all competitions in four seasons in the Rose City. Multiple ACL injuries derailed Niezgoda’s time in Portland, and he proved he was incapable of shouldering the goalscoring burden for a Timbers team whose attack regularly sputtered in 2022 and 2023. Jaro’s contract option was not picked up, and so he is off to elsewhere in 2024.
Other players who had their options declined are Bryan Acosta, Franck Boli, Noel Caliskan, Diego Gutierrez, Eric Miller, and Justin Rasmussen. Several of those players played big roles in 2023, in particular Boli and Miller. Boli (who reports suggest declined the mutual option that was on the table from the Timbers) tallied seven goals through 29 games in 2023, and Miller proved to be a capable depth piece along the backline for the Timbers this season.
Miller, Acosta, and goalkeeper David Bingham are all free agents and are currently still in discussions to return to the Timbers, so it may not be goodbye for them just yet.
It is goodbye to a trio of draft picks though. Caliskan, Gutierrez, and Rasmussen all came to Portland via the SuperDraft, and all three have had their options declined.
Gutierrez and Rasmussen both were picked in the 2022 draft, and both young players played nominal depth roles during their time in Portland. Gutierrez had his first season cut short by a foot injury, and he was only able to tally 250 MLS minutes across ten appearances (three of them starts) for Portland. Rasmussen made 11 starts on the way to 15 MLS appearances for Portland, and tallied just under 1,000 minutes in green & gold.
Caliskan was drafted just last year, and had his time in Portland end after only a single season. He made four appearances in 2023, two of them starts, and managed to record an assist in just under 250 minutes played.
What does it all mean?
This offseason has been billed as a big one for the Timbers, and the number of high-profile players departing signals that is indeed the case — especially when you look at the holes that now exist on the roster.