PORTLAND, Ore. – Sunny skies greeted the Portland Timbers’ training session on Friday, but it was impossible to escape the gloomy news that one of their prized Designated Players is injured before he’s even played a game.
The Timbers announced that forward José Adolfo Valencia will undergo surgery to repair damaged cartilage in his left knee, effectively ending the 20-year-old Colombian’s highly anticipated first season with the club before he stepped on the field.
The red flags raised about "El Trencito" Valencia’s health during the team’s first day of physical testing last week were confirmed via an MRI that showed damaged cartilage to the surface of the femur in Valencia’s knee.
He’s expected to miss six to 12 months of action while he undergoes surgery and rehabs in Portland.
“I’m gutted for him as a person,” Timbers head coach John Spencer told reporters. “I’m a father myself, and to be in a different country, doesn’t speak the language and all of a sudden after a week here, you’re getting knee surgery. It’s disappointing.
“We’re going to try to put an arm around him and look after him and protect him as much as we can.”
Spencer said his concern is more with Valencia rather than how his team will react to his loss on the field. He said it’s now the club’s job to make sure his rehabilitation goes as smoothly as possible.
“He’s a boy really coming from a different country, doesn’t speak the language,” Spencer said. “We’ve not had him, so you don’t know what you’re missing.”
Timbers eneral manager Gavin Wilkinson also addressed the media after training Friday, further detailing the new loan agreement that allows Valencia to stay with the team but not count as a Young Designated Player this season.
“His contract takes full effect once he returns to 100 percent health,” Wilkinson said.
He said that after conversations with everyone involved, including Valencia’s former club Independiente Sante Fe, moving forward with surgery was the best, most prudent option.
“There was just a small issue,” Wilkinson said. “Upon further investigation, that small issue could become a big issue. It’s better to treat it now. It’s better to remove the issue to see if you can get the player to make a full recovery. With [owner Merritt Paulson] making a significant investment, we did not feel comfortable making that investment with that particular injury.”
Paulson, for his part, took to Twitter to express his disappointment with the newest development.
“Day we found out about Valencia's knee was tough one,” Paulson tweeted. “But we will win games no matter obstacles and player is very much part of our future.”
The surgery is scheduled for Monday in Portland, after which Valencia will conduct the entirety of his rehabilitation with the team.
“We still think this player could be something special,” Wilkinson said. “And he’s only 20. And with this type of surgery, at his age, the health of that particular area of his body looks very, very good other than this injury, so the terms of the transfer remain the same. Everything is just being delayed by one year.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.