BEAVERTON, Ore. – Frederic Piquionne got quite the introduction to MLS.
The veteran forward, formerly of the English Premier League and Ligue 1, joined up with the Portland Timbers just days before their Cascadia rivalry match Saturday in Seattle after returning from France while sorting out visa issues. And jet-lagged or not, he was thrust onto the pitch in front of 40,000-plus screaming supporters at CenturyLink Field for the final 20 minutes as the Timbers rallied from a 1-0 deficit in stoppage time to split the points at one apiece.
“That stadium is a really good atmosphere,” Piquionne said this week from the quieter confines of the Timbers training facility.
And even if the raucous atmosphere reinforced Piquionne’s decision to come to MLS after spending most of his distinguished career in Europe, the 34-year-old is looking forward to some down time. The Timbers get the weekend off before traveling to Colorado for a March 30 match against the Rapids.
“It’s good for me because...it was a long trip for me," he said. "Now I have a program to get better, so I have good fitness for the next game. And hopefully I have a chance to play in the next game.”
Piquionne, who was signed ahead of Portland’s season opener after a brief trial, represents the final new piece of a rebuilt Timbers side. Major preseason injuries to forwards Brent Richards and Bright Dike, which will keep them out for most of the year, depleted the Timbers’ depth up top, making Piquionne’s arrival most welcome.
He’s a proven commodity who scored 23 goals over 89 matches with Saint-Étienne from 2004-07, and Timbers coach Caleb Porter said that despite his age, his skill level remains high.
“Frederic made a strong impression during his trial and gives us another quality piece in the striker position,” Porter said. “He is a proven professional at a high level and helps our depth with Bright Dike out.”
Piquionne is also the second Frenchman to trial with the club and sign, following defender Mikael Silvestre. Piquionne acknowledged that knowing Silvestre has made the adaptation process a smooth one.
“It’s the best thing for me to stay here,” he said. “The coach, everyone has been good with me, so that’s why I’m really happy.”
His role with the club, for the moment, is serving as the primary backup for starting forwards Darlington Nagbe and Ryan Johnson. Johnson’s Jamaican national team duties could thrust Piquionne into starting duties on several occasions.
“I think we have a good group here on this team,” he said. “I can help the team from my experience, as well, because I have a lot of experience on professional teams and good teams as well. Even though I’m 34 years old, my legs are good, my body is good, so I can help the team.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.