PORTLAND — After answering questions about the status of Colombian forward Jose Adolfo Valencia, Portland Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson thanked media members for their patience.
But Wilkinson’s thank-you could have easily been directed to Timbers supporters, or to the player at the center of two weeks of speculation.
Because, it turns out Valencia’s debut for the Timbers has been delayed for up to a year.
The announcement on Friday that Valencia will have knee surgery next week and will miss the 2012 Major League Soccer season was not a surprise. The status of the 20-year-old forward was a mystery because Valencia had been absent from training after participating in fitness testing on the first day of training camp.
The real news was that the Timbers are committed to Valencia despite the discovery of cartilage damage that will be surgically repaired on Monday. Timbers team doctor Jonathan Greenleaf is slated to perform the surgery. Valencia will do his rehabilitation in Portland.
Wilkinson said the cartilage damage in Valencia’s left knee is a “small issue” right now, but that because it might eventually become a bigger problem, the Timbers wanted to address it before making a long-term commitment to Valencia.
Signing Valencia in December under Major League Soccer’s Young Designated Player provision was one of the more significant offseason moves by the Timbers.
“We still think this player could be something special,” Wilkinson said. “And he’s only 20.”
Coach John Spencer said his concern is for Valencia — not for what the injury means for the 2012 Timbers. Having surgery in a new city, a place where he doesn’t speak the language, adds stress to the situation for Valencia, the coach said.
“I’m gutted for him as a person,” Spencer said. “We’re going to try and put an arm around him, and protect him and look after him as much as we can.”
Valencia will be placed on the disabled list for 2012. Technically, Valencia will be listed as on loan to Portland this season from Colombian club Independiente Santa Fe. His Designated Player contract with Portland will be pushed back one year, Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson said it is not known when Valencia suffered the injury. The injury showed up on an MRI after Valencia arrived in Portland to begin training.
The decision to stay in Portland for the surgery and rehabilitation was made following extensive discussions with representatives for Valencia and his Colombian club, Wilkinson said. A Santa Fe team doctor traveled to Portland to examine Valencia, according to Wilkinson, who praised Independiente club officials for their assistance with reworking the original transfer agreement between the clubs.
Ultimately, the decision to repair his knee in Portland was made by Valencia, Wilkinson said.
“He has decided that he wants to be here,” Wilkinson said. “He feels that he owes the club something moving forward for the investment that we’ve shown in him as a person.”
Wilkinson said moving Valencia to the disabled list gives the Timbers some short-term roster versatility.
“We still need to add one to two players,” Wilkinson said. “Maybe that opens up the potential of signing another foreigner, but we’re not actively going out looking to fill Valencia’s spot right now.”
• The Timbers preseason training shifts to the Los Angeles area beginning Sunday. Portland will train at the Home Depot Center Feb. 5-16. During that time, they have preseason matches scheduled against Los Angeles (Tuesday), Montreal (Feb. 10), Houston (Feb. 12) and Chicago (Feb. 15).
• Spencer said he will not make any roster cuts prior to the matches in Los Angeles.
“We’ve got to give everybody an opportunity to get down there and get some games,” Spencer said, adding that he has been impressed with the performances of some of the young players, including draft picks Miguel Ibarra and Brendan King.
• Spencer said he expects 19-year-old midfielder Charles Renken, signed this week, will join the team in Los Angeles. The coach also said he anticipates Kris Boyd will join the team within a week, when the immigration paperwork is completed to allow the Scottish striker to come to the United States.
• Tickets go on sale Monday for the preseason games to be played at Jeld-Wen Field. Doubleheaders featuring the Timbers, San Jose Earthquakes, Chivas USA and Sweden’s AIK will be played in Portland on Feb,. 27, March 1, and March 4.