Editorial (February 22, 2019)- It is fair to say that over the past few years, Major League Soccer has finally moved past its label as a retirement league. No longer are teams using Designated Player slots to go after big name players whose career is on the decline. Instead, we have teams going after DPs who are either on the rise – like Josef Martinez and Allan Cruz – or are currently in their prime – like Nicolas Lodeiro and Darwin Quintero. But one name that doesn’t appear on the list of top DPs that often is Portland Timbers midfielder, Sebastian Blanco.
Blanco signed for the Timbers in February of 2017. With two full seasons under his belt, Blanco has 18 goals and 19 assists to his name during the MLS regular season. He was also instrumental in Portland’s deep MLS Cup run last season, scoring three goals in the playoffs, including this blast against the Kansas City:
Even with his impressive statistics, he still lives in the shadow of Deigo Valeri. With no disrespect to El Maestro, Blanco deserves much more credit than he is getting. But what makes the Argentine midfielder so good?
One aspect of it is his versatility. Blanco can seamlessly play anywhere along the front midfield three causing havoc for backlines. This versatility not only allows him to get in dangerous positions on his own but it also provides cover for Valeri to move around and find gaps between the opposing backline and the midfield. That is also why Vargas would have fit this system well.
Another reason why Blanco should be in the conversation as a top designated player in the league is his ability to use both his feet. The Argentine’s dominant foot is his right foot, but defenders frequently make the mistake thinking that he can’t use his left. The video below illustrates this perfectly.
FC Dallas center back, Reto Ziegler, favors Blanco’s right foot, allowing him to cut on his left. Little did he know he can still do this:
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 24, 2018
For an attacking player, Blanco is also solid defensively. So often we see attacking threats give up defensively and just wait for the ball. Blanco, on the other hand, continuously does his part to get the ball back. His unselfishness defensively is huge for Portland’s style of play, opening up more opportunities to hit on the counter.
Timbers fans understand how important Blanco is to their team. They know how technically gifted he is, and how he makes the players around him that much better. It is time that the rest of MLS realizes this as well.