The Timbers announced that they have signed central-defender Zac McGraw to a contract extension through 2025, with a club option to further his stay until 2026 on Tuesday. The young defender has launched himself into head coach Gio Savarese's plans in recent months with an impressive 2022 season. While he only made 12 starts in Major League Soccer during the most recent campaign, the American defender was a shining light in the midst of a disappointing season, leading the team with 52 headed clearances.
Savarese did not shy away from raining the praise down on the 25-year-old in the club's official announcement. “I’m pleased that Zac will continue to be a part of our team. Zac has grown immensely in the past two seasons after joining the Timbers as a rookie in 2021,” said Savarese. “He has an incredible work ethic, and I have no doubt that he’ll continue to be an asset to our team.”
With question marks over the ability of long-time center-back Larrys Mabiala, who is closing in on 36-years-old, a new era of defense could be underway at Providence Park. Not only did McGraw make his mark on the team in 2022, but New Zealand international Bill Tuiloma cemented himself as a starter at the back for the team. Interestingly, Gio Savarese tended to play three center-backs during the back half of the 2022 campaign, but limited options centrally could force the Venezuelan coach to move back to his usual back-four in 2023.
McGraw's extension is one in a long line of squad transactions already completed by the club this offseason. Felipe Mora, and Claudio Bravo have also put pen to paper on new deals in Portland, and the club recently wrapped up a record signing in the form of 24-year-old Brazilian playmaker, Evander. After missing out on the MLS playoffs by one point last season, the Cascadia club will be keen to continue to strengthen the squad in search of a return to top tier in the Western Conference.