[MLS SPOTLIGHT] Mikael Silvestre has landed at Portland, where he's being touted for what he can bring to the Timbers on the field and in the locker room. The 35-year-old, signed to a two-year agreement with an option for a third, is only the latest in a slew of French vets who have come to MLS seeking to prolong their career. Will he be like Thierry Henry, a two-time Best XI pick, or younger versions like Sebastien Le Toux and Aurelien Collin, also Best XI selections, after resurrecting their careers? Or will he be like Ousmane Dabo and Didier Domi, who didn't last a full season two years ago in New England?
Portland coach Caleb Porter, of course, believes Silvestre can have a big impact in the Rose City and will solidify the middle of the Timbers' backline alongside Hanyer Mosquera.
Besides Silvestre, the Timbers could start as many as five new players in Porter's rapid makeover: Ryan Miller and Michael Harrington at outside backs, Will Johnson and Diego Valeri in midfield and Ryan Johnson up front. All bring tremendous experience and leadership to the Timbers, who fell apart in 2012 after challenging for a playoff berth in 2011, their first MLS campaign.
"Mikael will bring a tremendous amount of experience and a presence on the field and in the locker room,” said Porter in announcing the signing. “He is a quality player on both sides of the ball and his impact will certainly go a long way in helping to solidify our back line. Mikael made a very positive impression on the players and our coaching staff during his two-week trial and we are very excited to welcome him to the Timbers organization.”
Like Henry, Silvestre was born to a father from the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe and raised in France. Their career paths were similar: starts at small clubs -- Silvestre at Rennes, Henry at Monaco -- followed up Silvestre short detours to Italy in 1998-89 -- Silvestre to Inter Milan, Henry to Juventus -- and then moves to England, where they both made it big -- Silvestre nine years at Manchester United, Henry eight at Arsenal.
Silvestre won five Premier League titles, plus one FA Cup, one League Cup and one UEFA Champions League.
But unlike Henry, who played in four World Cups and three European Championships, Silvestre played in just one European Championship (a rather disappointing showing at the 2004 finals in Portugal) and one World Cup (one appearance at the 2006 finals).
Silvestre's versatility allowed him to play at center back and left beck, but it was just his bad luck to have an exceptional generation of Frenchmen -- Laurent Blanc, Marcel Desailly, Lilian Thuram, William Gallas and Bixente Lizarazu -- ahead of him at these positions.
After Man United, Silvestre spent time at Arsenal and Werder Bremen in Germany, but he returned last fall to Manchester, where he was training in the hope of finding a new club.
-- Another Frenchman, Frederic Piquionne, played the first game of his tryout with the Timbers Wednesday in their 1-0 loss to FC Dallas. Other Frenchies looking to latch on include Pascal Chimbonda (Chicago), Peguy Luyindula (New York) and Djimi Traore (Seattle).