Although a demon in the middle third, a long-time critique of Portland’s Diego Chara has been his lack of effectiveness in the attacking or defensive thirds. Given how important the midfield is in the modern game, Chara has always been a valuable player, but his lack of punch in the final third meant he was less of a star than a role player. He added a valuable dimension to Portland, albeit only one.
On Saturday against Seattle, that all changed. With two goals from beyond the penalty area, Chara got on the scoresheet for the first time since 2011, part of an effort that led Portland to a 4-2 lead on the arch-rival Sounders. While Clint Dempsey’s late goals eventually took two points from the Timbers, they couldn’t take this week’s PST award away from Chara. The Portland midfielder is our Player of the Week.
Chara’s first chance came on an opportunity he created, taking the ball off Gonzalo Pineda in the first half before beating Stefan Frei from just outside the penalty area. Five minutes later, Chara created another turnover that led to a goal, this time winning the ball in the middle of the park ahead of Diego Valeri’s go-ahead goal
Ten minutes into the second half, Chara completed his double, taking a ball worked in from the right through Alvas Powell and Kalif Alhassan and again converting from the edge of the penalty area. On his 28th birthday, the Colombian destroyer doubled his career goal total, giving his best performance since arriving in the league in 2011.
Along the way, Chara was his typical destructive self, ending the match with four interceptions and two tackles. He also completed 94 percent of his passes, an accuracy that’s become another trademark of the midfielder’s game.
When you look at what separates Chara’s performance from Dempsey’s (who claimed the league award with his hat trick), it’s the Timber’s influence in more than one facet of the game, along with Dempsey’s third goal being from the spot. Seattle’s Saturday captain had the bigger impact at the end, but Chara’s 90-minute performance was better.
That’s why, for the fifth time this season, we’re breaking with MLS’s official award. While the league has honored standout performances, it has also tended to honor players who’ve grabbed headlines or prominent spots in highlight packages. That acclaim, however, doesn’t necessarily mean the player was the weekend’s best.
While Dempsey’s hat trick may have been Week 5’s best story, Chara was actually the week’s best player.
|PST Award||MLS Award|
|Week 1||Will Bruin, Houston Dynamo
2g, 1a vs. New England
|Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake
8 saves, PK save at LA
|Week 2||Víctor Bernárdez, San Jose Earthquakes
2g, 1a vs. Real Salt Lake
|Jermain Defoe, Toronto FC
2 goals at Seattle
|Week 3||Fabian Castillo, FC Dallas
1 goal vs. Chivas USA
|Bernardo Añor, Columbus
2 goals vs. Philadelphia
|Week 4||Álvaro Saborío, Real Salt Lake
2 goals vs. Toronto FC
|Graham Zusi, Sporting Kansas City
1 goal, 2 assists at Colorado
|March Player of the Month||Michael Bradley, Toronto FC
3 games, 0 goals, 0 assists
|Week 5||Diego Chara, Portland Timbers
2 goals vs. Seattle
|Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders
3 goals at Portland