But head coach Caleb Porter also knows that Valeri – who didn’t play for just the third time this season due to a pesky adductor strain that he has been dealing with for the past month – will be key to Portland’s push for the Supporters’ Shield and beyond, beginning against Real Salt Lake on Saturday (9:30 pm ET, MLSsoccer.com Stream of the Week)
Porter told MLSsoccer.com after the Timbers' Wednesday training session that he is optimistic Valeri will still have a say in their late-season push and postseason run, and that he's questionable against RSL.
“We still expect him to make an impact in upcoming games, hopefully, and postseason, as long as he progresses and the medical staff feel he is ready,” Porter said. “Obviously, he is a key player and when he’s on the field you can feel his presence. But we have shown our depth all season and have proven we can get the job done regardless.”
The injury first surfaced in early September, resulting in Valeri playing a substitute's role against Toronto on Sept. 7 and then at Chivas USA a week later. He started and played nearly full shifts in Portland’s following two games.
But the injury flared up again in the leadup to the Timbers’ 2-2 tie against Vancouver on Oct. 6, Porter said, and he was visibly limited when coming on as a second-half substitute. That led to the Argentinean midfielder being held out against Seattle.
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“He just had a setback prior to the Vancouver game and we were able to get his adductor calmed down by not playing him vs. Seattle,” Porter said. “It will continue to be game to game, but the medical staff is handling the injury the right way so we should have him healthy soon.”
It is an injury that will likely not completely heal until Valeri can get a full offseason’s rest, Porter said. But the way he has performed when on the field certainly hasn’t suffered much. He scored goals in three straight games, against Toronto, Chivas and then Sept. 20 against Colorado.
“Valeri’s one of our best players,” Porter said. “If he’s healthy, he’s out there, he’s starting every game. I want him out there 90 minutes.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.