ATLANTA – Fanendo Adi and Diego Valeri led the Portland Timbers to many of the greatest achievements in the club’s history, as the devastating attacking duo racked up more than 100 goals between them over a four-year period highlighted by MLS Cup and Cascadia Cup triumphs and myriad memorable moments for fans in the Rose City.
The Timbers had already opened a new chapter over the winter when Giovanni Savarese succeeded Caleb Porter as head coach. Adi’s trade to FC Cincinnati on Monday turned another page on the organization’s most successful era, Valeri said at MLS All-Star training on Tuesday, though he believes the current squad are eminently capable of another championship run.
“He gave a lot to our club and we shared a lot of great moments, a lot of minutes playing together as a great partner in the field,” the Argentinean playmaker said ahead of Wednesday’s MLS All-Star Game presented by Target (7:30 pm ET | ESPN - full TV & streaming info). “He thought that he was ready to move and it’s OK – as professional players we are used to these moments.
“We will miss him, because he’s very competitive and he gave us the opportunity to have a star on the shirts.”
Valeri and Adi, celebrating an Adi goal in 2016 | USA Today Sports Images
Between 2014-17, Adi scored 53 goals in league and postseason play and, when fit, was an automatic starter when fit. This season, however, he has been pushed to the bench by the emergence of newcomer Samuel Armenteros. He requested a move to greener pastures as a result.
As Portland and FCC brokered a deal, Adi bid farewell to the Providence Park faithful in storybook style, scoring the game-winning goal in his final Timbers appearance, an emotional 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo on Saturday.
“Of course, we all have that kind of feeling,” said Valeri of the adulation at Adi’s sendoff, “because he played a lot of games, he gave a lot to our club and it’s normal – the fans love that kind of player that gives everything to the team. But we [players] have a career which is not very long and sometimes you think that movement is good.”
Valeri and Adi, lifting logs in front of the Timbers Army faithful | USA Today Sports Images
Even with others stepping up to assume the attacking responsibilities, Adi’s departure removes a big, charismatic presence from the Timbers’ locker room.
“Even if he’s still young – because he was a young guy when he came – his personality is strong,” said Valeri, calling Adi “a very good guy, very good teammate” who inspired players and fans alike. “He’s a very competitive scorer, a selfish mind in the box and I think that was very important for this club. He worked very hard to make us better, and make us bigger.”
In parting with Adi, Portland received a hefty package of nearly a million dollars in allocation money and future considerations from Cincinnati. Valeri declined to offer specific suggestions on how those resources would be best utilized, but he thinks Savarese already has his team in position to contend for MLS Cup.
“I don’t know, we will see,” said the 32-year-old maestro. “It’s hard to replace Adi but probably Gio is thinking of something that can help the team with that money, right?”
Savarese has overseen a sea shift in the Timbers’ tactical identity in his first year in charge, instilling a 4-3-2-1 formation that’s provided Valeri, Armenteros, Sebastian Blanco and the rest of the front line with a sturdy defensive foundation for incisive counterattacks.
Valeri thinks it’s a recipe for postseason success.
“We are working hard to be an organized team from the back to the attack, trying to have order every game, and that’s the base to winning something,” he said. “And then individually we have to perform.
“My role is still the same: No. 10, free movements, trying to read every game how is the key to open defenses up and create chances, and connect, and always thinking about the team and how to win the game.”