PORTLAND – Diego Valeri's status as a club legend for the Portland Timbers was already firmly entrenched going into Saturday's MLS Cup Final against New York City FC. But coming off a heartbreaking penalty-kick defeat at Providence Park, the 35-year-old's future in the Rose City is as uncertain as it's ever been.
Valeri saw a reduced role this season, making just 10 starts while notching two goals and three assists in 1,224 minutes. In the lead-up to MLS Cup, Argentine journalist Cesar Luis Merlo reported that Valeri was set to depart the club at season's end, although that's yet to be officially confirmed by the club or player.
Valeri's status immediately becomes one of the biggest storylines for the Timbers as they head into the offseason. Regardless of how it shapes out, Portland head coach Gio Savarese took the opportunity to laud Valeri's contributions when asked about the Argentine maestro at his post-MLS Cup press conference.
"He's a player that since he came to Major League Soccer, he showed his quality," Savarese said. "He made this league a better league. He made the Portland Timbers be what it is. And he's shown all his quality, he's played always with so much passion and he's done a fantastic job to have been an extremely important player for this organization. He's a legend for Portland."
HIGHLIGHTS: Portland Timbers vs. New York City FC | December 11, 2021
If Saturday was indeed Valeri's final match in Portland, it would mark the end of an era for one of the most dynamic attackers in league history.
Since originally joining the Timbers on loan from Argentine side Lanus in 2013 and signing with the club on a permanent basis shortly after, Valeri has racked up 86 goals and 91 assists in 262 games across nine seasons. He's a three-time MLS Best XI selection, won the league's Landon Donovan MVP award in 2017 (when he scored 21 goals and dished out 11 assists in 32 games) and also helped deliver the club's first-ever MLS Cup victory in 2015.
It's one of the most decorated careers in league history by any measure, irrespective of the bitter ending to a match on Saturday that saw Valeri's spot-kick saved by Sean Johnson in the decisive penalty-kick shootout.
"He's one that has shown why these types of players are important to come to Major League Soccer and he allows his way of playing, he allows MLS to be a better league," Savarese said. "So extremely proud of what he has given us. Proud to have been able to be with him these years as coach of the Portland Timbers. He has a very special family, he's just an example of what foreign players should be for Major League Soccer and for any team in Major League Soccer."