E20 Feature Hero

The first time a Timbers scout saw Evander da Silva Ferreira in action came on a cold, wet night in Denmark more than three years ago. The attacking midfielder was 21 at the time but had several qualities that immediately stood out.

He was fast, wasn’t afraid to shoot the ball, and could split a defense open with a simple line-breaking pass. Everything seemed to go through the feet of Evander. The timing wasn’t yet right with Diego Valeri and Sebastián Blanco on the roster, but the club knew it needed to keep tabs on the young Brazilian.

Several years––and one pandemic––later, Evander’s name resurfaced in the Timbers technical department. After years of scouting and several conversations behind-the-scenes, the organization has its guy. Late in 2022, Portland finally inked Evander to a deal through 2026, with a club option for 2027, making the midfielder the most expensive transfer in club history and its latest designated player.

This is how it all came together.

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“We knew we wanted to bring in a player in (the attacking midfield) position,” said coach Giovanni Savarese. “We had a few options, but everything seemed to go in the direction of Evander. We have the feeling that he’s the right player for us”

The Timbers had a few parameters in mind when they targeted a creative midfielder last summer. They wanted to find a player ideally between 23 and 25 years old with experience playing in Europe, but who hadn’t yet made the leap to one of the continent’s “big five” leagues.

“What you’ll find oftentimes is that those are the players that then become interested and available and more attractive for MLS,” said Technical Director Ned Grabavoy. “Looking at the profiles we had built and parameters we had in place, (Evander) was a name that quickly made its way to the top of our charts in terms of interest level.”

Evander’s pedigree speaks for itself. He began his professional career in 2016 with Club de Regatas Vasco de Gama in his hometown of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Danish Superliga club FC Midtjylland then brought Evander to Europe on loan in 2018 and made the deal permanent a year later.

The 24-year-old midfielder has racked up 50 goals and 38 assists in a little over four seasons in Denmark, and that’s just on the domestic front. He also has UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and UEFA Conference League experience. All those games gave Grabavoy and Savarese plenty to evaluate throughout the scouting process. What caught their attention?

“Evander has shown every game that not only he brings good qualities, but he’s also a player that tries to always be in the right area with or without the ball,” said Savarese. “He’s always trying to link the defense and the attack and can compete at a high level.”

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Grabavoy pointed out that while the “number 10” or pure attacking midfielder position has gone away in many parts of the world, it still exists in MLS, which benefits Evander’s playing style.

Comfortable with the ball at his feet, the midfielder puts pressure on defenses with his ability to connect play and carry the ball into dangerous areas before picking out the perfect pass. Most importantly, they believe he will be a great fit in a diverse locker room that includes both young and experienced players from South America, Europe and the United States.

Like they are in every deal, Savarese and Grabavoy stayed in constant communication, discussing what they saw as each poured through film and talked with both Evander and his agent. Portland’s technical director saw a “set piece specialist,” while the Brazilian’s gravity on the field and ability to be an attacking fulcrum excited the head coach.

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Timing was the most significant obstacle the Timbers faced in getting the deal across the finish line. Club scouts had several questions after seeing Evander for the first time. Intriguing at 21, would he still fill a need years later? Would he be at a “bigger” European club by then? Luckily, things worked out. Once Portland pinpointed Evander, the next challenge came in recruiting him to the Rose City and MLS.

Gravaboy pitched Evander on a significant role in the Timbers system and the ability to be a “marquee player” in Portland. Savarese spoke to Evander by phone several times throughout the process and said the Brazilian did his research on the city, club, and league and sounded excited about the potential opportunity. Things seemed promising, but they both knew the club needed some luck, too. After all, the Timbers weren’t Evander’s only suitors.

“He was coming off a year on his 23rd birthday where he lit the [Danish Superliga] up,” said Grabavoy. “I think that’s when there were six to 12 months where he wasn’t realistic for MLS. We needed some things to go our way to put ourselves in position to be a leading option for him.”

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Bringing Evander to the Pacific Northwest isn’t just a big deal for Portland, but also for MLS. His arrival raises the caliber of player in a league looking to grow. It’s also another sign of the league’s progress when it comes to putting itself on the radar of young, talented players from all over the world

“It’s a decision that for a young player already in Europe is interesting and definitely something that is starting to show a new trend of young players not only coming from South America, but also coming from Europe and other parts of the world,” said Savarese. “The interest in MLS is growing and the good thing is that these players are looking at MLS as a stepping stone to then grow in their careers.”

After missing the playoffs for the first time since 2016, a first under Savarese, the Timbers’ latest DP signing is a statement of intent, one that it intends to make another push toward MLS Cup.

Evander’s signature was never going to come cheap, but the organization knew that when it started to seriously target him again last summer. Instead, it considers the signing an investment, one both Savarese and Grabavoy are confident will pay dividends down the road.

“We felt like this was a good moment and a good opportunity to adjust,” said Savarese. “We build stronger, and I think Evander shows the interest of our team to want to invest and bring players that can make an impact right away in the transition we’re trying to make.”

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