PORTLAND, Ore. – Compared to most athletes, Diego Chara seems like a quiet person, saving his expanded thoughts for one-on-one conversations instead of post-match room scrums. Among those groups, he still engages, his eye contact and unwillingness to dodge a question showing the same respect for reporters’ jobs as they show his. Even amid that respect, though, the length of his quotes tends to peak at around 20 words.
Despite that brevity, the Portland Timbers mainstay was able to capture something special about what, for his family, was a landmark Sunday night. Although he and his younger brother, Yimmi, had played together at Providence Park before – Yimmi being signed by the Timbers this offseason and debuting during the team’s preseason tournament – Sunday’s match against Minnesota United was the first time they shared the field for a competitive match in front of Portland’s home crowd.
“We were talking about that two days ago,” Diego said, about anticipating the match, “[and] how it would feel in that moment to walk into the stadium with the fans and crowd. It was an amazing feeling.”
Diego, 33, and Yimmi , 28, have played together on the professional level before, having shared time at Deportes Tolima in Colombia prior to the elder’s Major League Soccer move. That was nine years ago. During Diego’s time in Portland, Yimmi’s career took him to Mexico and Brazil, with a return to Colombia in between. Now, they are reunited in Portland.
“It’s a great experience to have the possibility to play together in the same team …,” Diego said. “Now we need to get good results …”
On a team level, the results left the pair disappointed. Asked about what could have been a purely happy memory, each couched their pleasure within pain, nothing their personal happiness was offset by the “need to get good results.”
On a personal level, the night’s highlights will have been the prematch walkout, standing in the same line during the pre-match anthems, and finally being able to reshare a field. Wearing matching gray-and-white suits into Providence Park and situated next to each other in the team’s locker room, the Charas’ only meaningful time apart may have been the moments they drifted to opposite sides of the soccer field.
Photos: Craig Mitchelldyer / Portland Timbers
Early in the game’s second half, though, their proximity nearly forged a fairytale moment. Able to start a counterattack after a Minnesota set piece, both Charas forced a moment of panic from the Loons’ defense, and while that counterattack eventually broke down deep on the Timbers’ right flank, the moment provided a hint of what, with more time together on the field, could come from the brothers.
“We felt great,” Yimmi said. “It’s a partnership you have to work on day by day. That is one of the things we have been doing during training sessions and it’s something we want to also do on the field during games. It’s a work in progress, but we will continue to do the best we can.”
Yimmi’s best had been hindered slightly during preseason, with a right thigh injury occasionally limiting his time on the field. He was the night’s first substituted player, giving way to Dairon Asprilla in the 69th minute, but in the time before his departure, the youngest Chara brother got an idea of MLS’s demands.
“Personally, I felt great, very comfortable,” he said. “The result tonight tells you that you need to work hard every day to improve and be better. I can already tell that this is a very demanding and physical league, and you can only be successful if you are at your best.”
It was a level-headed assessment from somebody who, his brother admitted, was slightly unlevel before the game, with Diego confirming Yimmi was slightly nervous.
“A little bit,” he said, when asked directly about “nerves,” “because it was his first MLS game. I think he did a great job. He’s going to get more confident in his next games.”
Yimmi’s team needs that growth, with winger having been brought in to fill one of the team’s Designated Player spots. Health and familiarity could help, but there are expectations. Sunday’s result left fans hoping for me.
That game also left Yimmi’s first MLS game, as well as his competitive reunion with his brother, is in the history books. The novelty isn’t gone, but after match one, some of it has worn off. Now, the season comes into greater focus.