Diego Chará & Jorge Perlaza - Together again

Childhood friends Chará, Perlaza reunite

Diego Chará bouncing ball - Timbers @ LA Galaxy, 4.23.11

Photo Credit: 
Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

Among the few highlights from the Portland Timbers loss to the LA Galaxy on Saturday night was the second-half debut of new Designated Player Diego Chará. Signed on April 13 from Deportes Tolima in the Colombian Liga Postobón, the box-to-box midfielder came on at the start of the second half.

Though the Timbers had dug a deep hole early in the first half, Chará’s presence did begin to provide a different and energetic stability to the Portland midfield. In the 80th minute, Chará began a great run of play by feeding Jorge Perlaza to the right for a great run into the corner. Perlaza’s ensuing cross to Kenny Cooper had goal written all over it if not for a quick reaction save from Galaxy ‘keeper Donovan Ricketts. It was a subtle but tantalizing glimpse of Chará’s potential.

WATCH: Chará’s feed to Perlaza

Saturday was not only Chará’s first game in MLS, but Los Angeles also marked the young midfielder’s first trip to the United States. On Monday, he had his first practice at his new home pitch at JELD-WEN Field. His initial impressions on Portland have been positive.

“It’s a very beautiful city,” said Chará through a translator. “It’s a very close team and I hope to do things very well.”

Head coach John Spencer has already spoken with him about what he envisions the young midfielder’s role to be, “In the offensive half, give a lot of clarity to set up my teammates for a clear shot at goal,” said Chará modestly. And on the defensive half, he is to, “recover the ball as soon as possible.”

Sounds simple but before that is to happen, Chará has another task at hand. “First get to know my teammates and how they play. That way, I can use what I know and how I play to adjust to their games.”

Running through drills on Monday, the newest Timbers player was working hard to integrate himself into the squad as he went through a series of one-touch drills with his teammates. But they’re not all strangers to him. It’s not every day you get to play pro soccer with one of your best friends from childhood.

Timbers striker Jorge Perlaza and Chará have known each other since they were 12. “In the sports club in our school, we came out together,” said Chará.

To say that the two are like family is not a stretch. “Yes. We’re very close,” added Perlaza. “We went through a similar process and at the professional level, we’ve been able to be on three professional teams together and that’s made us very, very close.”

Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

It’s a familiarity that the two hope to utilize well in Portland.

Said Chará, “We were together in [Deportes] Quindío in 2004 until 2006 and then we played at [Deportes] Tolima and we played all last year together. I’m very happy because the teams that we’ve been on together have had great results.” To wit, the two helped lead Tolima to the overall first-place position in the Liga Postobón last year with a combined 25-10-11 record, which subsequently qualified the club for the 2011 Copa Libertadores tournament.

For success in Portland to happen, though, it could take a bit of time to adjust to the new surroundings and new language.

Perlaza himself is still transitioning MLS and the American playing field. Frustrated early in the season with many scoring opportunities but no goals, he put it all together with an explosion of two great strikes in the memorable home opener against the Chicago Fire. Perlaza feels that not only will things get easier for himself now that Chará is here, but that he also will be able to lend a hand to his new but familiar teammate.

“I think it’s going to be much easier. I know a little bit of the city now,” said Perlaza. “I know the teammates and little by little [Chará will] go through what I went through, but I think he’s going to adapt very quickly. He’s going to show a lot of football.”

Easy going around each other, the two have a clear respect for what the other brings to the field. Said Perlaza about his friend Chará, “I know he is a very great player and of great quality. He’s going to give a lot to the team when he adapts and soon you’ll see the quality of player that he is.”