The Portland Timbers have signed HNK Rijeka center-back Dario Zuparic, league sources have told ESPN.
The transfer fee is unknown at this point, but sources added that Zuparic was signed with the help of Targeted Allocation Money (TAM). According to Transfermarkt.com, Zuparic's contract with Rijeka was due to expire in June of 2020, and earlier this year he was reportedly on the radar of English sides Sheffield United and Fulham. But now he has decided to sign with the Timbers, though he will continue playing for Rijeka until the Croatian First Football League's winter break begins in mid-December.
Zuparic, 27, began his professional career with HNK Cibalia, which was then in the Croatia's top flight. He moved to Pescara of Italy's Serie B at the start of the 2013-14 season, and helped the Biancazzurro secure promotion to Serie A during the 2015-16 campaign. Zuparic found playing time difficult to come by following the club's promotion, and in January of 2017 he was loaned to Rijeka, a move that was later made permanent. He helped Rijeka claim the Croatian First Football League championship in 2016-17, with club finishing in second the last two seasons. Zuparic also led Rijeka to two Croatian Cups during his time with the club. All told he has made 268 league and cup appearances in his professional career, scoring seven goals.
A native of Zupanja, Croatia, Zuparic holds the distinction of having represented both Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina at youth level. He initially played for Bosnia's under-19s in 2010 before switching to Croatia, which he later represented at both U20 and U21 level.
Zuparic should provide defensive help, as well as durability for a side that ranked 10 out of 24 teams in MLS in terms of goals allowed this season, conceding 49 times in 34 games. Injuries made it difficult for manager Giovanni Savarese to settle on a particular center-back pairing. Larrys Mabiala and Bill Tuiloma earned most of the playing time, making 22 and 21 starts respectively. Both Mabiala and Tuiloma as well as Julio Cascante were the center-backs Portland chose to protect in Tuesday's expansion draft, while Claude Dielna was exposed.