Timbers sign Alcaraz-Cuellar to two-year deal

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers have come to terms with midfielder Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar, signing him to a two-year deal, it was announced Wednesday.

Alcaraz-Cuellar, 27, is returning for two more seasons with the Timbers after tallying 17 assists over his first two campaigns with the club, the most by a Timber since 2001.

“I feel very good about our chances this season,” said Alcaraz-Cuellar. “The majority of our team is coming back, which will help us be more cohesive and get us off to a better start than last year.”

"While we just missed making the playoffs last year, we felt at the end of the season that we'd assembled the makings of a very good team and it would be a top priority to make sure we had all the same pieces of the puzzle back for the 2004 season,” said general manager Jim Taylor. “Hugo was really the last piece of that puzzle and in many ways the most significant because of his versatility and ability to make us a better team. When you have the caliber of strikers that we do up front, you want them to get the best service possible and Hugo is one of the best in business at doing that."

Alcaraz-Cuellar’s nine assists last season tied him for third among league-leaders and was also a career-high, beating his 2002 total of eight.

Named to the A-League Team of the Week for Week 13 last season, Alcaraz-Cuellar scored a goal and dished an assist in a 3-2 win over El Paso to garner the honor.

In other moves Wednesday, the Timbers cut four players from their preseason roster. Fadi Afash, Adam Wilson, Ryan Youngblood and Greg Whyte were released from the team, paring the roster down to 21 players.

Afash, 30, has spent the last two seasons with Portland, scoring 48 points on 22 goals and four assists. He registered 18 goals in 2002, sharing the A-League goal-scoring title with teammate McKinley Tennyson and Montreal’s Eduardo Sebrango.

"In this job, the only thing more difficult than losing is the decision to release a player, and we were faced with some tough decisions,” said Taylor. “In the case of Fadi Afash, I think at the end of the day we knew that it was going to be difficult to get a player of his caliber the kind of minutes he deserves and as a result, we decided it was probably best to part ways. I can't say enough about the contributions he's made to the team and the community these past few years and the first-class gentleman and competitor that he is. We wish him, as well as Ryan Youngblood and Adam Wilson, all the best for the future."

Wilson and Youngblood joined the Timbers prior to the 2003 season, but both played sparingly.

Wilson appeared in three games for the Timbers in 2003 and was hampered by injuries for the majority of the season.

Youngblood, a Bend, Ore., native, logged 130 minutes over six games for the Timbers in 2003.

Whyte, a defender from Glasgow, Scotland, was invited to training camp as a trialist earlier this month.

TIMBERS NOTES: Next up for the Timbers on the preseason schedule is a match with Seattle Pacific at Tigard High School on Saturday, April 17 at 3:30 p.m. … the Timbers kick off the 2004 season vs. Seattle at PGE Park, Saturday, May 1 at 7 p.m. … individual-game and season tickets are now on sale … for ticket information, call 553-5555.