The Major League Soccer player of the week has been a revelation to fans of the Portland Timbers.
But Fanendo Adi’s quick impact — which goes beyond scoring goals — is not a surprise to Timbers coach Caleb Porter.
“We were looking for a certain type of guy, a third option,” Porter said. “A guy that brings air play, pace, power, hold-up pay, set-piece threat.”
Adi’s four goals and two assists in his first 226 minutes of action with the Timbers have demonstrated those qualities. He has used savvy and strength and has scored by running into space and scored by powering home a corner kick with his head.
Adi has twice scored two goals in a match since joining the Portland Timbers May 13 on what was described as a short-term loan from FC Copenhagen. The 23-year-old striker is a big reason the Timbers have won three consecutive road games.
Porter said the Timbers searched for a forward with Adi’s skill set, but did not find a good fit until the 6-foot-4, 185-pound Adi became available. At least through the summer loan period, the Nigerian gives the team a big forward who can pressure defenders in a variety of ways.
“He can threaten the center backs and occupy them. They have to worry about him getting behind them. They have to worry about him on crosses,” Porter said, explaining that Adi’s presence can open up space in the midfield and on the wings.
Diego Valeri, whose five assists in the last three matches have pushed him to the league lead with eight, is enjoying that extra space.
“It’s a help because we have a different guy in the attack,” Valeri said. “(He is) strong and he can hold the ball to keep maybe two men (occupied).”
Plus, he gives Valeri a true target for crosses into the penalty area.
Will Johnson, who scored an incredible goal against Vancouver off a juggling feed by Adi, said the presence of a big forward who can possess the ball allows him and fellow defensive midfielder Diego Chara the time to join in the attack.
“For us to be able to get up and join the attack we need someone to hold it and slow it down,” Johnson said. “I’m not sure we had that at the beginning of the year where we could get up and join the attack with any kind of effectiveness.”
Porter emphasized that Adi is not the only forward brimming with confidence entering the Timbers’ 7 p.m. home match Wednesday against F.C. Dallas.
Maximiliano Urruti has four goals over his last three appearances. Gaston Fernandez shares the Timbers goal-scoring lead with six, four in his last seven meaningful appearances.
“I do want to reinforce the fact that we have two other very good options, as well, who are also performing,” Porter said.
“We’ve got strikers that now are confident and in form,” the coach said. “And we’ve got different types of strikers, so also we’re unpredictable for opponents.”