Lucas Melano’s goal against Dallas solidified the Timbers birth in the MLS Cup. His game-winning assist helped the Timbers win it all. Not a bad haul for a 22-year-old who arrived at in a new country and new club in the middle of the season. Especially considering over the course of the season he played left wing, right wing, and striker both as a substitute and a starter.
It wasn’t all roses and MLS cups for Melano though. His early inclusion to the squad was marred by the occasional terrible touch and a nasty case of turf slippage. Caleb Porter claimed Melano could play “all 4 forward positions” and while that is perhaps true, Melano would often go missing in the attack on the right side, and turned the ball over too much to fill Adi’s shoes at center forward. ((What the Timbers ask of their forwards is pretty remarkable.))
Much has been said about Melano’s shooting boots both during 2015 and before, but his 48% conversion rate sits just under Diego Valeri and Rodney Wallace’s 49% and 50% respectively. He compares favorably to his fellow wing eater Dairon Asprilla who posted a 29% conversion rate getting his shot chart all over his bib and pants, just messy not Messi.
With that being said, his 39% conversion rate as a CF rates just below Alan Gordon and journeyman forward Quincy Amarikwa. They say goals are the most expensive resource in soccer and money for forwards is thrown around with the recklessness of a Trump with daddy’s inheritance. We threw out a winner’s bid for Melano who currently sits as the fifth highest transfer fee paid for any MLS player and the most ever paid for a Timber. Looking forward a year with Adi’s stock soaring, Melano may be in line to take over for Adi in the Timbers Ubermensch position.
The Timbers, still without a replacement for Rodney Wallace, are a little light on the wings. Even with a new addition, the early season journey will require both Asprilla and Melano to log major minutes at physically demanding positions. Especially if Melano is asked to run up and down the wings stretching out the defense and pinning opposing right-backs to defensive positions.
As someone who probably had the best view of Melano’s Messi’ing with Texas Goal, he certainly passes the eye test. He’s a big dude with incredible speed and I believe there is very much a potential for growth in attacking players one-on-one, passing accuracy and of course, finishing.
“He gives us that option to really stretch and threaten the opponent’s back four, whether that’s counterattacking or whether that’s being up the field,” said Porter, who compared him to a Gyasi Zardes–Fabian Castillo hybrid. “He can stretch in different ways, on or off the ball and central or wide, so he’s a guy that will hopefully eliminate defenders individually at times. If he’s behind the back four, you’re not catching him.” -Caleb Porter, Head of the Portland Department of Rocket Science.
Melano thrived when given a chance to play on the left with Villafana giving him an equally intelligent partner to bounce of ideas off of. It will be interesting to see how he pairs with Chris Klute, who appears to me to be a more direct player than Villafana.
At the end of the day, I want my life to be beautiful, not realistic and that is where Melano dilemma lies. Will he be able to do enough on the wings to justify the cost of the highest transferred MLS winger of all time?
Goals from the wing are a very rare thing in MLS. The top 10 ranges from Ethan Finlay at 12 and Justin Meram (who isn’t a true winger but has played there) at 5. Moving over to assists you have 11 for Finlay at #1 and 4 for Sebastien Le Toux who sits tied for 10th (again not exactly a true winger). Yet when we polled the public for our over/under’s at 12 combined goals + assists, 89% of people took the over. I know from experience that we are all terrible gamblers but there is something missing between our expectations and what it means to fly, out there on those MLS wings.
So let’s set the bar at 10 combined goals and assists. Do you think he makes it? Would love to get your thoughts in the comments below.