The Portland Timbers have never shied away from bragging about their myriad of options on the attacking front.
On Friday, they announced they’ll be adding one more weapon to that arsenal. Portland signed 22-year-old Argentine attacker Lucas Melano to a Designated Player contract, giving head coach Caleb Porter a player capable of sliding in to any one of the team’s front four spots in their 4-2-3-1 formation.
“We’re obviously in a playoff push and hopefully have the opportunity this year to do something special,” Porter said on Friday at the team’s training facility. “And we think he’ll be another attacking piece that will help bolster our attacking options and hopefully increase our scoring production.”
Melano has spent most of his career as a winger, but recently began featuring as a lone striker for Argentine Primera club Lanus, the same side from which the Timbers landed fellow DP Diego Valeri in 2013.
Up top, Melano would hypothetically be competing for time with countryman Maximiliano Urruti and former DP Fanendo Adi, Portland’s leading scorer with eight goals whose contract was bought down with Targeted Allocation Money to pave the way for Melano’s addition.
On the wings, Portland feature Darlington Nagbe, Rodney Wallace and Dairon Asprilla. Valeri, the team’s best offensive weapon the previous two seasons, mans the attacking midfielder’s role, while Argentine Gaston Fernandez is another versatile option.
“He also brings some dimensions we feel we don’t have,” Porter said of Melano. “He’s another player who can change a game individually. He’s very good running with the ball, creating for himself off the dribble, he’s got extreme athleticism and pace to stretch the back four and threaten.”
Melano led Lanus with five goals in 14 games during the 2015 Argentine Primera Division season. In 42 league appearances for the club since 2013, he has eight goals.
“With more time up top scoring goals, we feel like he’s on the cusp of really coming into his own as a goalscorer,” Porter said. “We’ve seen signs of that this year and the last several years.”
Porter and general manager Gavin Wilkinson said Melano first emerged on their scouting radar when Porter began his tenure in Portland following the 2012 season. Wilkinson said the move was made not only for immediate impact but also for the future, saying he was signed to a “long-term” deal.
“He’s an experienced player already,” Wilkinson said. “And while his age is still young, we think that with his level of experience and his qualities he’s not a young player as such. I think he’s an asset for the club now and will be an asset for the future.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.