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Diego Valeri cements Timbers, MLS legacy with MVP award

It’s hard to remember a time when Diego Valeri wasn’t synonymous with the Portland Timbers. Throughout his MLS career, Valeri has emerged as the premier Timber, a face for a franchise and a city with a long history and a passionate fervor for the game. Even so, it’s been just five short seasons since Valeri made the move to Portland from Lanús, even if those five short seasons have been jam-packed in more ways than one.

The 2017 season, in particular, will be seen as a memorable one for the Argentine star because it was one that ended with the Timbers’ most important player being recognized as the league’s best.

Valeri was honored as MLS Most Valuable Player on Monday following a record-breaking season that saw the midfielder provide 21 goals and 11 assists. His goals were the most ever scored by a midfielder in league history, and his nine-game goalscoring run snapped the record for most consecutive games with a goal.

“Every individual award in our game is a collective achievement, which is why this is also for each one of my teammates,” Valeri said when presented with the award on Monday. “Since I arrived here in this city with my family, they gave us their love and their support. Our supporters occupy a very, very special place in my heart. I only have words of thanks for them, and this also belongs to them.”

Valeri’s stature in Portland has been cemented over the past five or so years, but the road to this point was one that began by chance. Timbers owner Merritt Paulson recalled a disappointing 2012 season, the second of the team’s MLS reboot. Following a down year, the team highlighted an attacking midfielder as the No. 1 need, and the primary target was a young American that could fill the role.

But general manager Gavin Wilkinson found another idea when he couldn’t find the right deal for that young American piece. He’d found a player in Argentina that could fit the bill.

Valeri’s first goal came just 13 minutes into his home debut, a spectacular juggled finish against the New York Red Bulls. Since, Valeri has scored 57 more while integrating himself as a member of the Portland community both on and off the field.

“We hadn’t had that kind of on-field quality maybe ever here,” Paulson said. “The litany of moments that followed that: 27 seconds into MLS Cup in Columbus, being the second player ever in the history of this league to join the 20-10 club. You’ve been a revelation for us on the field, but you’ve been a revelation for us off the field.

“You embody what it means to be a Portland Timber. I can’t be more proud.”

Over the past five years, Valeri has been recognized in a variety of ways. He’s a three-time MLS All-Star and a one-time MLS Cup MVP. He’s been named to three Best XI teams and earned MLS Newcomer of the Year honors.

But Monday’s announcement is as special as any of them. It’s an individual honor for a player that just put together one of the best seasons in MLS history. With the Timbers repeatedly hit by injuries, Valeri stepped up and all but carried his team to the top seed in the West.

It’s also the culmination of five years of big moments in MLS as Valeri’s MVP award officially puts him among the top players to ever play in the league. Monday’s award is recognition that Valeri has transcended and has joined rare company throughout a five-year journey headlined by continued dominance.

“It’s huge. It’s huge,” Valeri said. “For me, if you can, in a place you’re playing, if you can write history, it’s something people will always remember. It’s a privilege. In soccer, you never control what you win and what reward you get for your efforts, so this is something really nice.

“It’s something that is always great when you’re recognized for your effort on the field. When you play during the season, you don’t think about this. It’s an extra. I always, since I arrived, I wanted to make an impact in the league, and that made me really happy.”


  1. The other day a forgot.the name of the team that prefered to play whit only americanos and
    is FC Dallas,a would like to see ileven americans in the field,perhaps much later whit homegrown player,like Brasi plays whit two foreiners

  2. That was one heck of a season. Less injuries and the playoffs would have been closer in the Western Conf Finals.

  3. There’s just one thing wrong with Valeri–he’s not an American. If he were, he’d have been our best player the last 5 years. It’s his bad luck that he’s Argentinian, since he would start for most any other national team. He’s really much too good for MLS and could easily play for a top club, such as Athletico Madrid or similar. We have been lucky to have him in the US.

    • Such a weird thing to say considering he couldn’t cut it at Almeria Lanus or Porto. At Lanus he was benched by none other than Barros Schelotto.

      • We’ll a player matures with time and getting consistent playing time, something that he never got at the other places. Then again you’re such a blowhard that I don’t expect you to understand how certain players develope differently. He was finally giving a chance to play and not worry about making mistakes without getting benched. In Lanús there were many fans not wanting to see him leave and many acknowledged that he should have played much more than he was.

      • Near the end at Lanus Valeri was also dealing with being held captive at gun point and robbed.
        Regardless, his calculated field vision of the sum of parts are a beautiful equation of attacking futbol and simply make him the Maestro!
        Valeri is the epitome of being a humble athlete and an even better person. There is a very cute yet poignant video of Valeri telling his daughter he won the MVP. His daughter is giddy with excitement for her Dads achievements and insists a few times he needs a trophy case for all his trophies. Valeri calmly just says no they will all go into storage.
        Ironically, the young American the Timbers were pursuing was Mix Diskerud. The hang up for signing him was his father/agent did not agree with the MLS ownership of this contract and future mobility. Thank you Mr Diskerud!

    • Gary, something that allowed Valeri to flourish at Portland was Porters system. Beyond the Porterball possession and eventually systematic quick touch counters was an emphasis on being calm and controlled on the ball yet see the field. A healthy Timbers was built around a CB who has vision and touch on passing, a deep center mid or two who can win the ball, mulitple midfielders who can flip the field with a dribble or pass and yet keep possession, attacking midfielders that can play quick balls to teammates feet and in close spaces and of course keep possession, and a forward who can hold the ball, pass, and attack
      Valeri scores 21 goals and had considerably less shots then the other top goal scorers.

    • When I saw him play in the All Star game vs. Real Madrid, I saw a player who could hold his own with their best players. We have seen a number of MLS players have some success in Europe and Valeri is clearly better than those who have moved on in the past, so I don’t think my evaluation is out of bounds.


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