PORTLAND, Ore. – Maximiliano Urruti sure isn’t making life easy for Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter – in a good way.
The 23-year-old Argentine striker just produces, whether he’s starting, coming off the bench, no matter the competition. His brace in Tuesday night’s 4-2 victory over CD Olimpia in Portland’s first CONCACAF Champions League home game gave Urruti three goals in the Timbers’ two CCL games to go along with his team-leading nine MLS goals.
With five players on the roster with six or more goals, it’s created quite a happy conundrum for Porter.
“That’s the fun part of coaching and my job, with good players I’ve got a lot of pieces to work with,” Porter said following Tuesday night’s game. “Sometimes it’s a challenge because you have more decisions to make, but it’s fun to have options. It’s a good problem to have. We can do a lot of different things.”
Urruti has a goal and an assist after coming off the bench in Portland’s last three MLS games. With just 12 starts in 24 appearances, his goals per 90 minutes played average of 0.73 is fifth best in the league among players with at least 16 appearances.
“Well, the truth is that players always want to play, but we know the coach always selects 11 players,” Urruti said Tuesday through a translator. “So no matter whether you’re starting or coming off the bench, you always have to know how to contribute, want to play and do your best.”
Urruti’s goals against Olimpia were particularly impressive – and important considering the Honduran champions gave Portland a good challenge in the first half.
He pounced on an Olimpia turnover in the box and fired off a shot in traffic inside the near post to beat goalkeeper Noel Valladares. He then gave the Timbers a 3-2 lead in the 57th minute when he made a perfect run to receive a Will Johnson chip pass, showing creativity when he chipped a pass to himself over a charging Valladares for an open look at the goal.
“They were two different situations,” Urruti said. “The first one was a situation where I was able to appear and get an easier goal, and the second one was a one-on-one with the goalkeeper and I was able to finish that one, too. Two goals in two different situations.”
With fellow foward Fanendo Adi also producing as a starter and off the bench as well, it remains to be seen where that leaves Urruti heading into a crucial league battle at home Saturday against the Vancouver Whitecaps (2 pm PT; NBCSN, live stream at NBCSports.com), a game for ownership of the fifth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Heading into the Timbers stretch of two league games and two CCL games (with the second ahead Tuesday against Alpha United), Porter said he would keep players fresh through squad rotation.
“We have six league games, we have two more CONCACAF Champions League games, and I don’t know how exactly I’m going to manage those games because we have a lot of good players, a lot of depth,” Porter said.
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.