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Brian Fernandez has proven worth the wait for the Portland Timbers, who look to continue riding the striker up the Western Conference table Wednesday night when they face the Montreal Impact.
The 24-year-old designated player was a late add to the Timbers roster as he wrapped up his season with Necaxa in Mexico's Liga MX, joining Portland in May. Fernandez has made up for lost time in impressive fashion, totaling eight goals in seven matches across all competitions.
After helping Portland (5-7-2) reach the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup with a goal in Tuesday night's 4-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy, Fernandez picked up where he left off Saturday by scoring the third goal in the Timbers' 4-0 hammering of the Houston Dynamo. He has five goals in just 292 minutes in league play and became just the fourth player in MLS history to score in his first four league matches, joining Alex Pineda Chacon (2001), Carlos Ruiz (2002), and Charlie Davies (2011).
"I think the work we do day after day, the work we do with our teammates, the effort the team makes to help me position one-on-one against goalkeepers and help me put the ball in the net has some skill on my part, but also work from behind, which is something I highly appreciate," Fernandez told the team's official website via a translator. "The team looked for me a lot today and to keep scoring makes me happy, so I hope I can continue on that path, accomplishing objectives and continuing my growth."
Diego Valeri converted from the spot and assisted on the other three goals, getting the primary helpers on markers by Fernandez and Jeremy Ebobisse. It was Valeri's fourth three-assist game of his career, and he is tied with LAFC's Carlos Vela for the MLS lead with 10.
Portland will be represented at next month's All-Star match versus La Liga side Atletico Madrid by defensive midfielder Diego Chara, considered among the MLS' best in that role.
Montreal (8-7-3) did not have a player tabbed for the mid-season match despite entering this contest second in the Eastern Conference. The Impact are playing their first match in three weeks, having been idle over the weekend in the league's return from the Gold Cup recess, and play 10 of their final 16 matches at home.
"In many ways, we're very happy with where we are," keeper Evan Bush told the Impact's official website. "We've had a lot of adversity: injuries to key players, suspensions at different times, a lot of travel and road games. All those things need to be considered, but we've still maintained a good pace. We're doing well, but we feel like there's more. I think that as we get more bodies back and play more home games, we're going to be in good shape moving forward."
Montreal will be without a handful of players who are participating in summer tournaments. The most notable absences are three starters - midfielders Samuel Piette and Micheal Ariza, who are with Canada and Uganda, respectively, and American wingback Daniel Lovitz.
Montreal is 4-2-1 at home despite scoring only six goals at Stade Saputo, where it has split four all-time matches versus Portland. The teams played to a 2-all draw in the Pacific Northwest last year, with Valeri scoring the equalizer in the 65th minute.
Updated June 24, 2019