MLS Moves: Guzman leaves Saprissa for Portland

A true denizen of the “Monster’s Cave” will tread the fields of MLS next year.

The Portland Timbers announced Thursday they have acquired midfielder Daniel Guzman, who has won five Costa Rican league titles with Deportivo Saprissa, in a transfer. Guzman has played 184 league matches for Saprissa and Cartignes, with which he started his pro career in 2009.

He also has extensive experience in the Concacaf Champions League with Saprissa, which in group play several months ago advanced to the quarterfinals at Portland’s expense by getting four points in their two head-to-head encounters. Guzman played the full 90 minutes in both games and has a total of 16 CCL games on his resume. He was a member of the Saprissa team that reached the CCL semifinals in 2011 and lost to Real Salt Lake, 3-2, on aggregate.

“David is an experienced player we have tracked for some time and one who fits the positional profile we targeted this offseason,” said general manager Gavin Wilkinson in a team statement. “He has experienced what it is like to play in Portland and is very excited about this opportunity to join the Timbers. We are pleased to welcome him to the club and his new city.”

In the wake of a disappointing season for the 2015 MLS Cup champion that fell short of the 2016 playoffs, the Timbers’ midfield is being reshaped. Yet to be determined is where Darlington Nagbe, pushed to a wide role for much of 2016, will line up next season. MLS is fielding inquiries from foreign teams as to his price tag.

Guzman, 26, primarily plays the defensive midfield role filled by Diego Chara and Jack Jewsbury, who has announced his retirement. Also in the mix is Ben Zemanski; a groin injury and other ailments limited him to 11 games (six starts) in 2016 and he sat out the entire 2015 season recovering from a torn ACL.

“Guzman is a true No. 6 and will be a good fit on both sides of the ball,” said head coach Caleb Porter. “He is a technical, possession-type player and is smart positionally to help connect our midfield and back line defensively. David is also hungry to win more trophies and we feel his edge will complement the other players in our squad.”

He has accrued 25 caps for Costa Rica but has yet to firmly establish a regular place in the lineup. Named to the squad for Hexagonal matches against Trinidad & Tobago and the USA in November, he didn’t play in either game.

In the league season that concluded last week, Guzman started 22 of his 23 appearances and scored three goals for Saprissa, famed not only for its success but the intimidating environment that welcomes visiting teams to the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa. Nicknamed “the Monster’s Cave,” for the deafening roar generated when its capacity of 24,000 is filled by frenzied fans, the stadium -- like Providence Park -- is renowned as one of the toughest venues in Concacaf for visiting teams.

Guzman’s move follows by one day that of former Saprissa teammate Adolfo Machado, who has joined the ranks of Panamanians in MLS by signing with Houston.

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