PORTLAND, Ore. – Of all the new faces in Portland Timbers camp for the start of the 2013 season, Diego Valeri may just be the most important.
The Argentine midfielder, acquired earlier this month on loan from his country’s first-division side Club Atlético Lanús, will be entrusted as the point man in new head coach Caleb Porter’s possession-orientated attack. And after a few days of training with his new club, the 26-year-old Valeri is already speaking Porter’s language – even if his English is still a work in progress.
“The general idea is obviously going to be, no matter who is on the field, to maintain control of the ball,” Valeri said through a translator. “And so whether if it is Diego [Chará], [Darlington] Nagbe or anybody else on the team, what we’re working on is just possession of the ball so we can hurt other teams by doing that. And it’s just going to be that, just maintain possession, create some plays and score goals and try to put a good game on the field.”
Valeri said Porter’s tactics fit right in to what he learned rising through the ranks of Lanús’ developmental system. And even though he said players are still getting to know each other and the few training sessions have been mostly basics, Porter made it clear on Day 1 what he wants to accomplish by the season opener on March 3.
“One of the first things that coach told us on the first day is we need to treat the ball very well,” Valeri said. “Just try to move the ball around, work on the timing of the game and basically being able to control games by managing the possession of the ball.”
And Porter likes what he sees, a “gifted” and technical attacking midfielder in his prime.
“He’s a guy who you won’t see his complete quality until you throw him in a match, and yet you see some nice little touches,” Porter said. “Today, even just in the pattern play, you can see the composure, the final passes, the finishes, even the movement, the timing, those little things you can’t teach. He’s going to bring a different sophistication to this group.”
Valeri said it’s his hope to bring a quality to the pitch that matches the organization’s class that attracted him to the league in the first place. Before coming to MLS, Valeri said his fellow countryman, Real Salt Lake’s Javier Morales, had spoken positively of the league. And since joining the team, Valeri has been very impressed.
“I think this is a great club, this is a great team,” he said. “I’m just really surprised at how well organized the infrastructure of the MLS and this team in particular. It’s a very good group of people, all of them professionals. And basically what we need to do is translate what they do outside the field onto the field and just put together a good product out there. This club is going to continue to grow year after year.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.