CHESTER, Pa. – When Philadelphia Union defender Carlos Valdés found out he was selected to the 2012 MLS All-Star Game, he placed a call to his good friend, countryman and former teammate Faryd Mondragón.
And Mondragón – the ex-Union goalkeeper who started the All-Star Game last season, his only in MLS – gave his Colombian compatriot some very basic advice.
“He told me, in simple words, to enjoy the experience and it will be great,” Valdés said. “That’s it.”
Enjoying the experience shouldn’t be too hard for Valdés, who called the selection “amazing” and one of the crowning achievements of his soccer career.
Valdés, who played professionally in Colombia before joining the Union for the 2011 season, noted this will be the first time he will ever play in a game like this.
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“In the leagues I played before, we don’t play these types of games,” the Union center back said. “It’s like when I had the opportunity to go to the [Colombian] national team; it’s something similar to that but it’s different because we have guys coming from different places. My first feeling was nervous when I knew I’d be an All-Star because it’s been a long time since I’ve heard this kind of news.”
One thing will help with his nerves when Wednesday’s all-star game against Chelsea begins (8:30 pm ET, ESPN2): the fact that the contest will be held in his home stadium of PPL Park.
On top of the excitement of playing in front of some of his fans, the 27-year-old Union captain believes his familiarity with the field could bay big dividends.
“Maybe I’ll be more comfortable because we play where we usually play,” said Valdés, one of two picks made by MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “I think that’s a good advantage for me.”
No matter the result of Wednesday’s game, Union interim manager John Hackworth believes Valdés will represent the club, the fans and the city well – just as he has for the past season-and-a-half.
“He’s very deserving of the selection,” Hackworth said. “He’s had a fantastic year for us and he’s also been here for two years where he’s been really solid. I think he’s one of the best center backs in the league.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.