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Portland Timbers' Diego Valeri runs away with MLS Newcomer of the Year award

NEW YORK – When the top two candidates for Major League Soccer’s 2013 Newcomer of the Year rose above the rest, the options were straight forward: offensive firepower or defensive might?

The choice, as it turns out, was an easy one.

Portland Timbers playmaker Diego Valeri ran away with the annual award honoring the best new player in the league on Wednesday, offering some fitting punctuation for a player who burst onto the MLS scene in his very first game in March.

The 27-year-old Argentine earned the vast majority of votes from club personnel, media members and MLS players, easily outpacing runner-up and MLS Defensive Player of the Year José Gonçalves from the New England Revolution.

Valeri is the third straight Argentine player to win the award after the Columbus Crew’s Federico Higuaín in 2012 and Seattle Sounders’ Mauro Rosales in 2011. The award – which honors the player who is in his first season in Major League Soccer but has prior professional experience – was first given out in 2007.

Few races have been as one-sided as this year, however, thanks in large part to Valeri’s impressive stat line since joining the Timbers on loan from Argentine side Lanús in January. Valeri racked up a league-leading 13 assists and 10 goals – including tricky finish in the season opener that was a finalist for the AT&T Goal of the Year – and earned a selection to the MLS Best XI squad on Tuesday.

The Timbers purchased Valeri’s contract and signed him to a new multi-year contract in August, during the middle of a stretch in which he recorded a goal or an assist in eight of 11 appearances as the Timbers made a successful push for their first-ever MLS playoff berth.

Valeri joined Timbers midfielder Will Johnson and goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts on the Best XI squad, while Ricketts was named Goalkeeper of the Year on Wednesday. Head coach Caleb Porter was named the Coach of the Year on Monday.

PLAYER % Club Votes % Media Votes % Player Votes WEIGHTED TOTAL
1. Diego Valeri (POR) 72.34 79.22 36.38 187.94
2. José Gonçalves (NE) 6.38 2.60 13.21 22.19
3. Nigel Reo-Coker (VAN) 6.38 1.30 8.54 16.22
4. Clint Irwin (COL) 2.13 3.90 5.89 11.92

MLS Newcomer of the Year Winners:

2013: Diego Valeri – Portland Timbers
2012: Federico Higuaín – Columbus Crew
2011: Mauro Rosales – Seattle Sounders FC
2010: Álvaro Saborío – Real Salt Lake
2009: Fredy Montero – Seattle Sounders FC
2008: Darren Huckerby – San Jose Earthquakes
2007: Luciano Emilio – D.C. United