When the Philadelphia Union sent Carlos Valdés to Colombia’s Independiente Santa Fe for a one-year loan in January, John Hackworth stressed that he remained a part of the club’s long-term plans and that the deal didn’t signify the end of the center back’s time at PPL Park.
Nearly one year later, however, the Union manager’s tune has changed to the point where it doesn’t look like Valdés will return to Philly any time soon — if ever.
“The reality is this is a good situation for Carlos right now,” Hackworth told MLSsoccer.com. “He needs to continue to be in that situation going into the World Cup because we’re in a good marketplace for him right now. I would think at some point he’s either going to get bought or we’re going to extend that loan through the World Cup.”
Valdés, who was acquired by the Union prior to the 2011 season, was probably Philly’s most important player in 2012, leading the club in minutes played, wearing the captain’s armband and making the MLS All-Star Game.
But when the season ended, the Colombian center back asked to return to his native country on the request of Colombian national team coach José Pékerman, who wanted his players nearby. From there, Valdés was able to emerge as a key member of Colombia’s backline, helping his native country qualify for their first World Cup in 16 years.
“Carlos is poised to play in a World Cup, which was his major goal,” Hackworth said. “And that’s the major reason why we decided to loan him out last year in the first place. We benefited financially but this is something that Carlos came to us with well in advance and said, ‘Hey, José Pékerman wants me to be in front of him and his coaches all the time.' The loan we worked out with Santa Fe allowed him to do that.
“There’s been an option out there for Santa Fe to buy his contract as part of any loan deal, and we’re in continued discussions with them whether they’ll pick up that option.”
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If Valdés is sold, Jeff Parke and Amobi Okugo will almost certainly remain as Philly’s center back pairing for the foreseeable future. There had been thought that Okugo would eventually move back to his natural position as a holding midfielder, but Hackworth said that captain Brian Carroll would retain that spot in 2014.
“Our plan is to keep Amobi as a center back,” Hackworth said. “That may change, but the reality is he’s played his best professional soccer as a center back. I don’t understand why there’s even an argument.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.