New man Valencia wants to make his mark in Portland

Even though the newest Portland Timber, José Adolfo Valencia, will have to wait until early January to join his new club, “El Trencito” (The little train) has already set his No. 1 goal in MLS:

“I want to be the difference maker on the team,” the 19-year-old told FutbolMLS.com by phone shortly after his move to Portland had been made official.

Signed as a young Designated Player – officially the first in MLS – the title carries added pressure for Valencia, who hopes to emulate the success of fellow countryman and now bitter rival Fredy Montero of the Seattle Sounders.

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“It’s great,” Valencia said about the expectations that accompany the DP label. “I’ll have to work hard to make a difference. [Montero] makes a difference, he’s an example to follow, and I hope to have the chance to talk to him.”

Following in the footsteps of his legendary father, two-time World Cup veteran Adolfo “El Tren” Valencia, who played for the MetroStars in 2000 and '01 and urged his son to accept the Timbers’ offer, the younger Valencia says he’ll heed the advice his dad has given him. However, he wants to make sure he writes his own story in the league.

First, though, is the small matter of assimilating into a new team and a new city, a task that should be made easier thanks to the two Colombian players already in Portland, striker Jorge Perlaza and midfielder Diego Chara.

“I’ve got to integrate slowly,” Valencia said. “I know it’s one of the better teams and that there are two Colombians there. I also know the city is beautiful, that the stadium is nice and has a turf field, and that the executives I talked to are good people and are centered.”

The move will also be a new adventure for his wife.

“She’s very happy because, just like the door has opened for me, a door has opened for her to learn about a new culture,” said Valencia. “I know we’ll make a great team because when you’re away from home, the best way to happy is to have someone, especially in the early stages of adaptation to a unknown place.”

Valencia does leave Colombia with one regret: not having won a top-flight title there. Not more than 24 hours before his move to Portland was revealed, his former team, Santa Fe CD, was eliminated from the Liga Postobón semifinals.

“Honestly, I’m sad because I would’ve liked to be a champion,” he said. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. But now I’ve got to think about what’s next, have a good preseason, and come to Portland focused.”

Valencia will spend the rest of the year with his family before traveling to the US to join up with his new team.