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Breaking down the Portland Timbers roster heading into 2020

More surprising than who the Timbers cut is who they will keep.

The Portland Timbers roster is starting to take shape for the 2020 season — although plenty of questions remain.

The club announced Thursday it has allowed centerback Claude Dielna’s contract to expire and declined options on goalkeeper Kendall McIntosh, defender Modou Jadama and forward Foster Langsdorf.

Along with those cuts, the Timbers already announced designated player Brian Fernandez would not return after his contracted was terminated over violations to the league’s substance abuse policy. Zarek Valentin was selected in Tuesday’s expansion draft and also leaves the club.

The Timbers did not exercise an option to extend club legend Diego Valeri’s contract, the club said Thursday, but it does remain in negotiations to bring him back.

The most notable takeaways from the Timbers roster announcement, however, may be who wasn’t cut.

Dairon Asprilla, who has statically been one of the worst finishers in MLS and got into a small tiff this past season with coach Giovanni Savarese, is still under contract heading into the 2020 season. The Timbers picked up a contract option on Asprilla in 2017 for the 2018 season and he has remained under contract since, suggesting he was signed to at least a three-year deal.

Andy Polo is another player under contract who doesn’t seem to figure prominently in the Timbers plans. Polo joined in 2018 on loan and then was signed for hitting undisclosed performance thresholds, and he had been a regular starter in 2018. But over his time in Portland, he has struggled to produce, netting just one goal and three assists in 48 appearances, and he lost his starting spot this past season.

According to the MLS Players Association, Asprilla earned $200,000 this past season while Polo earned $150,000.

Meanwhile, other players who haven’t made significant contributions remain under contract as a affordable depth pieces under $81,000 each. Renzo Zambrano, Marvin Loria, Andres Flores and Marco Farfan are listed by the MLSPA as some of the cheapest players on the Timbers roster.

From that standpoint, however, the cut of Langsdorf may be somewhat surprising, even though he never featured for the senior team. He was the second-cheapest player on the Timbers roster, an effective player for T2, and a designated “homegrown” player, meaning the Timbers could have kept 100% of the proceeds if they transferred him elsewhere instead of splitting the profits with MLS, as typically happens in transfers.

The Timbers, who head into 2020 with 20 players in place, may be creating some roster space for players that can contribute more, and with 17 players already under contract, they had to cut where they could. Merritt Paulson previously said the club would go after a winger, a striker, a central midfielder and some defenders.

The club confirmed Wednesday that it had signed defender Dario Zuparic from Croatian side HNK Rijeka to a multi-year contract.

The biggest lingering question, aside from Valeri’s status, is how the Timbers will go about filling the designated player spot vacated by Fernandez. Sebastian Blanco, the club’s other DP, was re-signed to a new deal earlier this year that bumped up his pay and will ensure he sticks around long term.

A bona fide offer has been extended to goalkeeper Steve Clark, whose contract expired at the end of the 2019 season. Jorge Moreira and Cristhian Paredes will return on loan.

Portland Timbers roster (as of Nov. 21, 2019)

Goalkeepers: Jeff Attinella, Aljaz Ivacic

Defenders: Dario Zuparic, Jorge Moreira, Julio Cascante, Marco Farfan, Larrys Mabiala, Bill Tuiloma, Jorge Villafaña

Midfielders: Dairon Asprilla, Sebastián Blanco, Diego Chara, Tomás Conechny, Andrés Flores, Marvin Loría, Andy Polo, Eryk Williamson, Renzo Zambrano, Cristhian Paredes

Forwards: Jeremy Ebobisse

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