The Swedish striker had joined Italian Serie A side Benevento Calcio with high hopes in the summer of 2017, but his newly-promoted club opened the season by losing 15-straight games as morale plummeted within the team.
Armenteros found himself relegated to the bench early in the season until a coaching change enabled him to finally see more opportunities on the field. But just as he was hitting his stride, he came down with a virus that sidelined him for over a month.By January, he was ready for a new option.
The Portland Timbers came calling at the right moment.
“To get out of that and see people laugh again on the football field, meet guys that are walking in smiling, it feels great,” Armenteros said. “Right now, it feels like this is the right move. I’m excited about it. I’m really excited to be here.”
Ever since making the decision to trade Darren Mattocks to D.C. United in December, Portland has been actively targeting another striker to add depth at the position and push forward Fanendo Adi.
On Friday,the Timbers announced that they had used Targeted Allocation Money to acquire Armenteros on loan with an option to buy from Benevento.
The 27-year-old hasmade over 200 appearances in Europe since making his professional debut in 2009. He netted22 goals in 32 appearances across all competitions with Dutch top-flight club Heracles Almelo in the 2016-2017 season. He also earned his first two caps with the Sweden National Team in 2017 and is continuing to fight for a place with the squad ahead ofthis summer’s World Cup.
In past years, the Timbers would never have been able to acquire a second forward with Armenteros’ background.Butan influx of Targeted Allocation Money in Major League Soccer this year, along with the additional resources that the club gained by trading Darlington Nagbe to Atlanta United in December has given the Timbers a lot of flexibility in making roster moves this offseason.
Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said that Armenteros is the perfect forward to compliment Adias, both players bring different attributes to the field. While Armenteros is five inches shorter and less physically-imposing than Adi, Savarese said that he is a dynamic forward that will use both feet to score with consistency.
“I think being able to have diversity in regards to all the different tools that we’re going to be able to have is important,” Savarese said. “He’s an experienced center forward that will add a lot to the team.”
This will be the first time that the Timbers have had this much talent at the forward position since Adi and forward Maximiliano Urruti helped lead Portland to the 2015 MLS Cup title.
WhileArmenterosis expected to enter the season behind Adi on the depth chart and be a key player off the bench late in games, Savarese said that he expects there to be tough competition at the forward spot and anticipates that he could use both Armenteros and Adi alongside each other in the starting lineup at times if the club employs a 4-4-2.
“He’s a player that has some different attributes than Adi, which is important because they can complement each other as well,” Savarese said. “They will be competing, but also they could play together at some points.”
Armenteros hadn’t originally considered leaving Europe.
He tried to make a move to Dutch club FC Utrecht this season, but was unable to complete the transfer due to a FIFA rule that prevents players from representing more than two clubs in a single season.Shortly before moving to Benevento, Armenteros played 45 minutes with Heracles’ second division team while he was getting fit. He didn’t realize it at the time, but that appearance would prevent him from leaving Benevento for another club in Europe during the 2017-18 season.
But he was still allowed to make a move to a league, such as MLS, that followed a different calendar.
When he heard that the Timbers were interested in acquiring him, Armenteros immediately began thoroughly researching the club. He watched Portland’s games online and was impressed with its fan base. He also reached out to a handful of MLS players, including former Timbers Pa Modou Kah and Will Johnson, as he aimed to learn more about the club.
By the time he boarded a plane from Holland to Portland on Wednesday,Armenteros felt confident that he was making the right move.
“I’m here to compete,” Armenteros said. “I know my strengths. I know I’m a high-level player I’m coming here hoping to improve and to help fill in at whatever spot the trainer feels is necessary.”