PORTLAND, Ore. – Caleb Porter found his team, and now he’s got his man.
The Portland Timbers new head coach said Argentine midfielder Diego Valeri, whom the club on Thursday announced has been acquired on loan from Argentine first-division side Club Atlético Lanús, is just the player he needs to lead his attack.
“We’re looking for in him something very specific, a guy that can come in and be a playmaking midfielder, a guy that a lot of our attack will go through,” Porter told MLSsoccer.com by phone from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., where he is for the MLS Player Combine. “And I see him as that guy. He’s a very creative player, but also very intelligent, cerebral, smart, understands how to dictate the flow of the game but also a final third player.
"I believe he will produce goals as well. And like a good playmaker does will make players around him better, and we have some very good players in the midfield that will I think complement him.”
And if Porter was happy to be coaching Darlington Nagbe again, he’s ecstatic to have the combination of Nagbe and Valeri. With Valeri manning the No. 10 role, it frees up Nagbe, who led the Porter's University of Akron side to the 2010 NCAA national title, and relieves the pressure on him to carry the offense while putting him in a free-flowing, off-the-ball position.
“As we build our team, we’re going to have other key players, and I see Darlington being one of our attacking weapons, but certainly not our only attacking weapon,” Porter said. “Good teams have many, and we’re finally getting to the point where we have a diverse attacking group.
"With Darlington, I actually think in some ways he’s more effective when he can flow in and out of the game and pop up and hurt you in moments. I don’t think it will be on him to be the guy on the ball running the show. He’s a young player, and he’s not ready for that role yet. But he’s certainly ready to produce.”
For the Timbers to even have a shot at a player of Valeri’s quality, it's a clear indication the club means business in 2013, general manager Gavin Wilkinson said. When the two spoke, Wilkinson said Valeri had heard complimentary things about MLS and Portland, in particular, from the league’s other Argentine players.
“I think it’s incredible that the other Argentines in the league are speaking so highly of MLS and that it’s made it possible to bring a player like Diego over here,” Wilkinson told MLSsoccer.com by phone from South Florida. “He’s a player that’s received an awful lot of offers. He and the club have turned down many, many transfer requests, and it’s not as though there wasn’t the opportunity to play somewhere else.
"So for MLS, as a whole, it’s huge that a 26-year-old and a player who has featured on the international team the last couple of years wants to come here.”
Wilkinson said the Timbers’ fervent fan base was a big selling point, along with the city’s livability for a player with a wife and young daughter.
“He wants to make this a long-term move,” Wilkinson said.
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.