Valeri’s Goals Lifting Timbers at Right Time

Portland’s DP has scored in 3 straight games as playoff push continues
by Ray Marcham   |   Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Green Logs – column on Portland Timbers (PTFC) & the Portland, Oregon area soccer scene.

For as much acclaim there was on Friday night for Darlington Nagbe for topping the MLS 24 Under 24 survey, for as many eyes that were on Maximiliano Urruti as he made his 1st start and for as much phrase was placed on a thrown-together defense that bent but didn’t break. The Portland Timbers again needed a special goal from a special player to take the win.

Diego Valeri’s goal in the 13th minute was the only one in Portland’s crucial win over Colorado. The Argentine chipped in the goal over Clint Irwin to give the Timbers a lead that they never gave up, despite Colorado’s numerous chances to at least draw level.

It was a trend that has lifted the Timbers in a crucial point of the season. Valeri has scored in 3 straight matches, despite not playing all 90 minutes in each game as he recovers from an adductor strain. While just one of the numerous injuries that Portland had to deal with during their August struggles, his impact in the 3 September matches has shown just how vital the Argentine has become to Caleb Porter’s side.

Valeri has had a goal or an assist in 6 of the last 8 matches for Portland since the beginning of August. The Timbers didn’t lose any of those games, winning 3 (Dallas, Toronto and Colorado, all at home) and drawing 3 (Vancouver, Real Salt Lake and at Chivas USA). He was held off the score sheet at Seattle and at RSL, both losses. However, the RSL match was the one where he got injured, playing just 32 minutes before leaving the game.

Only twice in that span has Valeri played a full 90 minutes. They were the last 2 Cascadia Cup matches, the home draw with the Whitecaps on Aug. 3, and the loss at Seattle on August 25. The 73 minutes he played against Colorado was the most time he had on the field since the Sounders match.

But the impact he makes in the limited amount of time he’s on the field has been massive. Against Toronto, Portland went from a fairly blah 1-0 lead to a dominant 4-0 win in Valeri’s 13 minutes on the field. It was his 2nd half goal that saved a road draw against Chivas USA, when the Timbers were outplayed for long stretches by the Goats. And, of course, his goal held for Portland’s win against the Rapids on Friday night.

More eyes will be on Valeri on Sunday, when the Timbers host the Los Angeles Galaxy in a match that NBC will televise to the nation. In the last meeting with the Galaxy at JELD-WEN Field on July 13, he had assists on both Portland goals, including the corner that Andrew Jean-Baptiste headed into the net in stoppage time for a 2-1 Portland win. One of Timbers’ beat writers for The Oregonian, Geoffrey Arnold, has suggested that Valeri could be in the race for MLS Most Valuable Player if the Timbers finish strong in their last 5 matches. A big performance against the Galaxy on Sunday could strengthen that case.

Valeri’s impact will also likely be shown in other ways over the next few weeks. The biggest may be helping Urruti get acclimated to Portland and Porter’s possession system. Helping his fellow Argentine get comfortable will be a big factor as the Timbers continue playing for their first playoff spot since moving to MLS in 2011. Plus, if he continues setting up goals as much as scoring them, that could have major effect on Portland in the last 5 games, and maybe beyond.

That Sunday’s match with the Galaxy is huge goes without saying. The Timbers are just a point ahead of the Galaxy in the Western Conference, and a win would put Portland one step closer to securing a playoff berth, solidify their hold on 3rd and help in avoiding the 4-5 game. A loss puts Portland back into worrying about even making the playoffs, and a draw may help RSL secure 2nd and keeps things extremely tight between Portland, LA and Colorado for the last 3 playoff spots in the Western Conference.

Valeri will likely be a major focus for the Galaxy on Sunday, and for NBC, as well. Another solid performance, and a Timbers win, may make those MVP whispers a little louder.

He’s already become extremely valuable for Portland. The last few matches have shown just how valuable.

NEXT UP: September 29 – Portland Timbers vs. Los Angeles Galaxy, JELD-WEN Field, Portland, Oregon. 3:30 p.m. EST, NBC.

Ray MARCHAM

Nationality:
USA
College:
Washington State
Club Domestic:
Portland Timbers
Club Foreign:
Arsenal
Cascadia native and a fan for as long as he can remember, Ray was brought up on the old NASL. Learned to love MLS. Wanted to play like Clive Charles. Then like Tony Adams. Only dreams, of course.
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