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Jorge Villafana officially returns to the Portland Timbers

United States defender Jorge Villafan re-signed with the Portland Timbers just before the secondary transfer window closed. (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

The Timbers announced Wednesday evening they had used Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) to acquire Villafana via transfer from Liga MX side Santos Laguna.

Portland had to trade up in the MLS Allocation Ranking Order to acquire Villafana. The Timbers acquired the No. 1 allocation spot from the LA Galaxy in exchange for the No. 16 allocation spot, $75,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM) and $100,000 in 2019 TAM.

Villafana will be added to the Timbers’ roster pending receipt of his International Transfer Certificate (ITC).

General Allocation Money can be used to buy down a player’s salary cap hit, to sign new or existing players and to offset acquisition costs. Targeted Allocation Money can be used to buy down the salary cap hit on non-Designated Players making more than the maximum budget charge.

“It’s with great pleasure that we welcome back Jorge Villafana to the Timbers,” said Gavin Wilkinson, general manager and president of soccer for the Timbers, in a prepared statement. “Jorge played a critical role in helping our club win its first MLS Cup in 2015, and we are thrilled to welcome him back to Portland. He returns to the club as an even more experienced and seasoned professional, with his accomplishments with the U.S. National Team and his championship-winning success in Liga MX, and we look forward to his further contributions in his return to Portland.”

According to MLSsoccer.com, Villafana has agreed to return to MLS through the 2021 season.

Villafana originally joined the Timbers with little fanfare in 2014, but the left back claimed a spot in the starting lineup midway through the 2014 season and went on to become a fan-favorite in Portland. Along with growing into a consistent presence on defense, Villafana added a dimension to the Timbers attack with his ability to get forward, provide width and whip crosses into the box from the left flank.

In 2015, Villafana made 33 starts for Portland, recording a goal and five assists. He went on to start all six games during the 2015 postseason as the Timbers won the MLS Cup. He had one of his best performances for the Timbers in the 2015 MLS Cup final as he shut down Columbus Crew winger Ethan Finlay, a 2015 MLS Best XI selection, to help the Timbers earn the win.

But after the 2015 season, the Timbers made the decision to transfer Villafana to Liga MX side Santos Laguna. Due to the difficulties of managing the salary cap following an MLS Cup title, it was a move that the Timbers felt they had to make to keep the majority of the rest of the roster intact.

Villafana spent three Liga MX campaigns (2015-18) with Santos Laguna, making 60 league appearances (57 starts) and helping the club win its sixth Liga MX title this past season.

At the international level, Villafana has earned 19 caps (15 starts) for the U.S. Men’s National Team since 2017, including six starts during qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

“I have seen from afar the professional growth of Jorge Villafana and how his progress has led to success, and we are very pleased to add him to our group,” said Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese in a prepared statement. “He is a proven winner, contributing to multiple championships over his career, and we believe he will be an impactful and important addition to our team.”

Since Villafana’s departure, the Timbers have tried different options at left back. Portland originally brought in Chris Klute in 2016 to replace Villafana. When that didn’t pan out, Portland signed Vytas midway through the 2016 season. Vytas went on to make 37 appearances (29 starts), recording one goal and four assists during his time with the Timbers, but failed to reclaim the starting role this year as Zarek Valentin solidified himself as the club’s left back.

On Wednesday, the Timbers announced they had traded Vytas to D.C. United.

Villafana will likely have to compete with Valentin for playing time at the left back position. While Villafana is more of a natural left back and provides a lot going forward, Valentin has been a consistent defender and leader on the backline this season. Valentin could also move over the right back role and compete for playing time with Alvas Powell.

Transfer window recap

The Portland Timbers have been busy during the Secondary Transfer Window.

Here is a recap of the transfer window moves that the Timbers have made or are in the process of finalizing:

  • The Timbers acquired 20-year-old attacker Tomas Conechny on loan with an option to buy from Argentine club San Lorenzo.
  • The Timbers traded striker Fanendo Adi to FC Cincinnati in exchange for at least $850,000 in allocation money. Allocation Money allows clubs to better navigate the salary cap. General Allocation Money can be used to buy down a player’s salary cap hit, to sign new or existing players and to offset acquisition costs. Targeted Allocation Money can be used to buy down the salary cap hit on non-Designated Players making more than the maximum budget charge.
  • The Timbers traded left back Vytas Andriuskevicius to D.C. United in exchange for $50,000 in 2018 Targeted Allocation Money.
  • The Timbers are bringing Lucas Melano back to Portland. Melano, who has been on loan since the end of the 2016 MLS season, is expected to arrive in Portland soon. He will occupy a Designated Player spot for the remainder of the 2018 season.
  • The Timbers are bringing back Jorge Villafana. The club announced Wednesday evening that they had used Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) to acquire Villafana via transfer from Liga MX side Santos Laguna.
  • Portland had to trade up in the MLS Allocation Ranking Order to acquire Villafana. The Timbers acquired the No. 1 allocation spot from the LA Galaxy in exchange for the No. 16 allocation spot, $75,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM) and $100,000 in 2019 TAM.
  • The Timbers have traded an international spot to the Montreal Impact for the remainder of the 2018 season in exchange for $50,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM).

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(c)2018 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)
Visit The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.) at www.oregonian.com
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