Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson says USMNT player on club's radar for … – MLSsoccer.com
Merritt Paulson took to one of his favorite communication platforms on Tuesday to answer a host of fan questions, and offered some candid insight into the team’s future in the process.
The outspoken Portland Timbers owner touched on a wide array of issues in a Q&A session with fans on Facebook, discussing stadium expansion and a grass playing surface at Providence Park, player acquisition and how much the team invests in player signings.
The answer that perhaps will draw the most attention was Paulson’s thoughts on the resources he invests in on-field personnel. He said that despite the fact that the Timbers already have three Designated Players – Diego Valeri, Liam Ridgewell and Fanendo Adi – that doesn’t mean they’re done investing and that their spending levels are already top third in MLS.
“My staff has a green light to sign a guy on $5 million or less a year at their discretion (and more if I approve)… but getting the right one is the trick … they don’t grow on trees and it’s not just quality on field we look for,” Paulson wrote.
He emphasized that the Timbers wouldn’t make a splash solely on name recognition, reiterating the message that MLS is no longer a “retirement league” and that the Timbers don’t need a big-name player for marketing purposes.
Chelsea striker Didier Drogba was one name that came up. Paulson said he and head coach Caleb Porter “would love him to be a Timber,” but that it was highly unlikely.
He also said “there are a dozen guys or more” he would pick before Paris Saint-Germain star Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Paulson was also asked whether the team would be interested in picking up a USMNT player after being previously linked to Mix Diskerud before they signed Valeri instead. Former defender Michael Harrington is the only player to be called into a US camp while on the roster for the Timbers, but he failed to make an appearance with the team when he was called last January.
“With Mix been there done that,” Paulson wrote. “We tried and had we landed him Valeri wouldn’t be here (I make that trade any day of week and twice on Sun). There is a USMNT guy on our radar now.”
Predictably, there were a number of questions asked about future plans for Providence Park, the Timbers’ famed home venue.
Paulson said he is starting a detailed analysis of adding to the south end that would increase the capacity from more than 20,000 to approximately 23,000. But it would be done “only comfortably,” he added.
The stadium’s artificial playing surface also came up, to which Paulson answered that he was previously optimistic about adding a grass pitch by 2016 but not as confident now. Providence Park’s other tenant, the Portland State University football team, has created roadblocks to a grass field.
“In the meantime we take a lot of pride in our unique, soccer-specific artificial field which gets limited use… by far best in league and one of best in world,” he wrote. “Ask Thierry Henry!”
Paulson also confirmed that a short-term loan for Ridgewell to Wigan Athletic was in the works.
“Any loan would need to get him back by last two weeks of preseason,” Paulson wrote. “He would be fit and sharp from the loan and injury risk exists in preseason anywhere.”