BEAVERTON, Ore. – Only a few days into his time with the Portland Timbers, winger Sebastián Blanco is quickly fitting into the team. After meeting up with the club in Tucson, Blanco made his preseason debut for Portland Thursday night playing the first half in their match against Real Salt Lake at Providence Park.
“It's been excellent,” he said through a translator earlier this week at training. “I found a really good group of guys here and everyone's been so welcoming. I see the potential of the team, particularly from the midfield forward. I think we have the potential to be a really strong team to compete for important trophies in this league.”
The 28 year-old Blanco, a versatile midfielder capable of playing centrally or out on the wing and with a flair for the dynamic run or incisive final pass, provides Timbers head coach Caleb Porter with a wide array of options in the attacking third.
“We were very thorough with this signing,” said Porter. “He’s a proven player…You know what you get with him. You look at the goals he’s scored and what he’s produced. He’s more proven so I think the transition will be much different than some of the other, younger players that we’ve signed.”
While the contractual process that brought Blanco to the Timbers was, in the words of Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson, “complex,” the player himself says that he hardly wavered in his decision to come to Providence Park.
“Just seeing the interest Portland had in me, [signing with the team] was not a hard decision to make,” Blanco said. “Just seeing that kind of interest in a player makes you sure you made the right decision.
Judging by Blanco's own reaction, it seems that that level of interest has also helped him integrate quickly into his new team. And having a familiar face in his former Lanús teammate Diego Valeri–the pair won the 2007 Primera División Apertura championship–doesn’t hurt either.
“I've known [Diego] for a long time and he was very important in the decision for me to come here,” said Blanco. “He's been instrumental and he's shared a lot of the knowledge that he has, how important he has become for the team and the city.”
Blanco has demonstrated offensive creation throughout his career including time with Ukrainian club Metalist Kharkiv, English Premier League's West Bromwich Albion, and in his two years with San Lorenzo in Argentina.
Given his track record and knack for creative production, Blanco’s ready for the challenge of playing in MLS.
“I think each league has its strengths and difficulties,” he said. “I don't think this one is going to be any different.
“I'm just here working and trying to make the best of it and do the best that I can to help the team.”