Manuel Veth –
Eighteen goals in 34 Liga MX games were enough to convince the Portland Timbers. The Major League Soccer club paid $10 million for the 24-year-old Brian Fernández on May 7.
It was the biggest deal in MLS on transfer deadline day. Furthermore, it was a deal not without controversy and a bit of a football betting gamble for the Timbers.
Sure Brian Fernández was excellent in Mexico for Necaxa scoring 21 goals across all competitions. But MLS Cup finalists Portland Timbers had a poor start to the MLS season losing five out of the first six games. Defence was the club’s biggest problem as the Timbers conceded 17 goals in that stretch.
“MLS needs to stop buying mediocre forwards and focus on buying midfielders, defenders and goalkeepers,” Futbolgrad Network Argentine expert Nico Miremont said after the transfer was announced.
Brian Fernández – Worth the gamble
The Timbers, however, felt that they had to bring in a striker instead. “The start of the season didn’t go according to plan, but the good news is we didn’t let that affect the timeline or the judgement of the decision,” Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson said to Pro Soccer USA after the transfer was completed.
In fact, the Timbers believed that the defence would eventually sort itself out and, therefore, focused on bringing in a forward that could add significantly to the overall goalscoring record. The simple calculation in MLS is that every club needs at least one 15+ goalscorer to have consistent success in this league.
Portland’s topscorer, however, was Diego Valeri, who has only managed 14 goals and is not a true goalscorer but rather an attacking midfielder. Fernández’s 18 goals in Liga MX are understood to translate into even more goals in MLS.
Judging from his start into MLS, Portland’s management may have a point. Brian Fernández started the season scoring three goals in his first two MLS games.
“He’s relentless,” Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark said to Pro Soccer USA. “He’s a junkyard dog. I’m serious about that. This guy wants to score in training, he’s relentless.”
The Argentine striker, however, does come with some serious luggage. The striker missed his first game with the Portland Timbers against the Vancouver Whitecaps after he was sent off in his last game for Necaxa.
At the end of April, in what turned out to be his last match for Necaxa, Fernandez received his first career red card. As he was exited the field, a fan was verbally abusing him. Fernandez spat in his direction, and the fan threw a cup at him, which he threw back.
Furthermore, in 2015 he failed a drug test and was banned for two years.
“In some ways, it allowed him to grow and mature,” Wilkinson said of the drug suspension. “He’s owned it. He made a bad decision; he stepped up and has taken responsibility for his actions. He talks about it, honestly and openly. I’d much rather know what I’m getting into rather than find out after the fact.”
Brian Fernández – By the numbers
Meanwhile, for Necaxa Brian Fernández was a magnificent investment. The striker was brought in for $600,000 and within one season managed to multiply his transfer value by more than ten times and earned the Liga MX side a massive windfall of $8.4 million.
Looking at Brian Fernández, however, the main question is whether he will be worth the money. Sure he has scored three goals in two games but what can Portland Timbers fans expect going forward?
With 0.74 goals per 90 minutes across all competitions in the 2018/19 season, Brian Fernández is easily the most dangerous forward in the current Timbers squad. Furthermore, Brian Fernández managed to get 42.42% of his shots on target, which ranks him fifth behind Lucas Melano (66.67%), Cristhian Paredes (50%), Dairon Asprilla (45.65%) and Andy Polo (44.44%) among current Timbers players.
What makes Brian Fernández dangerous, however, is his goal conversion. Here he ranks first among all Timbers forwards with a conversion rate of 21.21% dating back to the start of the 2018/19 Liga MX season. In other words, he is a pure goalscorer a man most dangerous in the 18-yard box.
It makes him a rare commodity in this league where clubs are in desperate need for that 15+ goalscorer. Hence, while he will not be able to solve the Timbers’ defence problems, he most certainly will give them plenty of goals.
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others contributes to Forbes.com and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.