Together at last: Timbers reunite the Chara brothers

In this Jan. 22, 2020 photo, Diego Chara, left, and his younger brother Yimmi Chara, right, speak at the Portland Timbers’ MLS soccer media day at Providence Park in Portland, Ore. The brothers are playing together for the Portland Timbers this season. (AP Photo/Anne M. Peterson)
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If they didn’t play different positions, it would be difficult to tell the Chara brothers apart on the field.

Diego and his younger brother Yimmi have been reunited this season by the Portland Timbers. The two got their first opportunity to play together in more than a decade over the weekend when they both started in the team’s season opener.

Midfielder Diego Chara, 33, has been with the Timbers nearly from the start. He signed as the team’s first designated player in April 2011, the year Portland joined Major League Soccer as an expansion team.

Yimmi Chara, a 28-year-old winger, signed with the team this January.

“It was a dream. We had the opportunity to play 10 years ago on the same team in Colombia. Now to have the opportunity to play again, it’s amazing,” Diego Chara said. “I think Yimmi’s a great addition for the team.”

The duo aren’t the only brothers on an MLS roster this season. The Chicago Fire has Nicholas and Gabriel Slonina, a pair of promising young homegrown players, but they have yet to play together.

In all, 15 sets of siblings have appeared together on the same team in league history. The first were Sean and Chris Henderson, who played with the Colorado Rapids from 1996-98. The most recent were Cristian and Alex Roldan, who spent the last two seasons with the Seattle Sounders.

Among the others were Chris Wondolowski, the league’s all-time leading scorer, who played with his brother Stephen on the 2008 Houston Dynamo, while Alexi and Greg Lalas played together very briefly for the New England Revolution in 1997.

Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson discovered the Charas on a scouting trip some 10 years ago. The brothers, who hail from Cali, Colombia, come from a football family: dad Jesus and older brother Felipe, 39, also played professionally.

Wilkinson said the team has been interested in the younger Chara from the start, joking that waiting until now probably cost team owner Merritt Paulson a “hell of a lot more money.” But ultimately the timing wasn’t right for a variety reasons, he said.

“I think what (Yimmi) brings us now is another experienced professional who has been very, very successful both on the international stage and for top clubs throughout the world, ” Wilkinson said. “He’s well-traveled, and he knows what his brother has in this club and in this city, and he wants to replicate it, and create his own identity as well.”

A feisty midfielder, Diego Chara has become a pest for opponents and a favorite for Portland’s ardent supporters. He’s the first player across all eras of the Timbers to play more that eight seasons with the club.

He leads the team’s all-time list in games played with 263, and games started with 260. He also ranks second in MLS with 638 career fouls and third in yellow cards with 80.

“Having another Chara is amazing. Especially with other attributes, other qualities, but the same type of foundation,” said Portland coach Giovanni Savarese. “It’s been great to see how right away both have been interacting with everyone — and the respect right away for Yimmi, after everything Diego has done as well.”

Yimmi Chara played the past two seasons with Atletico Mineiro in Brazil. He has made 10 overall appearances with the Colombian national team and was on the team’s 35-man preliminary roster for the World Cup in Russia but did not make the final cut.

“I think first we have to say he’s a versatile player, which is amazing,” Savarese said about the younger Chara. “He has incredible attributes both offensively and defensively.”

Their first game together didn’t go so well, with the Timbers losing to Minnesota United 3-1. Portland hosts expansion Nashville SC on Sunday.

The Charas are the fourth set of brothers to play for the Timbers since the club was founded in the NASL in 1975.

Despite the loss, Sunday’s match was special for the brothers.

“We were talking about that two days ago on how it would feel in that moment to walk into the stadium with the fans and crowd,” Diego Chara said. “It was an amazing feeling.”