What The Signing Of Jonathan “Cabecita” Rodríguez Means To The Portland Timbers


The Portland Timbers have their man, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Fresh off a thrilling 2-1 win over NYCFC in New York, the Timbers are reportedly signing Club Amèrica forward Jonathan “Cabecita” Rodríguez as their next designated player. The 30-year-old Uruguayan national team player has scored nine goals this season for Club America.

For the Timbers, the quest to add another offensive threat finally comes to a close after the regular season is three games old, and the team had seen a $15 million offer for young Argentine striker German Berterame of CF Monterrey rejected.

If the signing of Bererame had gone through, it would have followed the recent Timbers trend of going for high-upside, yet raw, DP signings for their attack. They’ve seen the ups and downs that came from signing Evander last season. Instead, they wind up with the more experienced and less expensive Rodríguez. The Timbers still have a third open Designated Player slot, and they could potentially use the savings to bring in another player to bolster an additional area of need, such as the defensive backline, in the summer transfer window.

Regardless of what the Timbers do with their money and their final DP slot in the future, what they have on hand now is tantalizing. They showed impressive glimpses of what they are capable of already against NYCF Saturday, coming back from a 1-0 halftime deficit to score a pair of goals in the final 15 minutes. The winner came on an absolute banger from Evander in the 97th minute when he took one touch off a pass from Anthony and buried a shot in the top right corner of the goal from well beyond the box.

If Evander’s goal gets him on the right track for the rest of the season, the Timbers will have a truly dangerous attack once they get Cabecita integrated into the roster. They already have multiple players who are excellent at moving and creating space off the ball. With Rodríguez able to sit into that space and clinically finish, opponents are going to have a lot to account for. He’ll be an excellent goal poacher who will score a ton of goals when opponents lose track of him or who creates opportunities for others because opponents are determined not to lose track of him.

Here are eight minutes of him scoring goal after goal for Club America. On the surface, it’s nothing flashing. There is no buckling the legs of opponents or magnificent flips, but repeatedly, he finds a gap in the opposing defense, stays in the gap, stays patient, and takes advantage of the opportunity to finish. That is something the Timbers have sorely needed in previous years and a trait they can certainly make use of this season.

With seven points in hand through three games, the Timbers are proving themselves to be a relentless team that learns from their mistakes. After a poor showing on defense cost them a win against DC United and put them in an early hole against NYCFC, the Timbers adjusted and showed that they have the heart to come back and take three points. While adding Cabecita doesn’t directly improve the team’s defense, his ability to find creases and seams in opposing defenses will make teams more wary of sending forward an aggressive counterattack and leaving their backline exposed. That should mean the Timbers’ backline will get more of a chance to settle in against attacks and hopefully be more able to communicate and coalesce.

The road to acquiring their new DP was certainly a long and winding one, with negotiations off and on with Club Amèrica to acquire him while they waited for the situation with Berterame and Monterrey to work itself out. Hopefully, winding up with the older, more experienced player benefits the Timbers in the here and now while still allowing them to fill out more needs in the future. The mercurial Evander struggled with consistency and expectations last season, and there were rumors that he wanted out in the offseason. The last thing the Timbers needed was to have to juggle the needs of two young stars who are both trying to take their games to the next level. Instead, they get a veteran presence to provide a stabilizing presence in the central attack and can now look to improve on their early solid standing in the Western Conference. If Evander is now settled in and can continue to provide goals like he did on Saturday, all the better.

While fans and the league may have had modest expectations for the Timbers coming into the season, their early performance is certainly raising them. When Cabecita finally dons the green and gold, those expectations will certainly only get higher, and it will be interesting to see how the Timbers are able to rise to the occasion.

Ben McCarty | Oregon Sports News