BEAVERTON, Ore. – If there was any doubt about Diego Valeri’s readiness to return to the Portland Timbers lineup after suffering a concussion April 6 against Houston, he answered it during Wednesday’s training session.
Valeri, the playmaking Argentinian midfielder who missed Portland’s game on Sunday against San Jose, participated in a short-field scrimmage at the team’s training facility. And as though he hadn’t missed a day, Valeri coolly lined up and fired off a 20-yard bomb inside the far post on the volley.
“I feel good,” Valeri told MLSsoccer.com after the session at the team’s training facility. “I’m ready for the match.”
Valeri returned to full training this week after being cleared by the team’s medical staff. He said he felt good even last week, but the team wanted to be cautious.
The question now is whether or not Valeri will play in the Timbers game Sunday at San Jose (11 pm ET, Unimas). Head coach Caleb Porter said Valeri is ready and will be in the 18, but considering the physical nature of last Sunday’s game with San Jose, there is a decision to make.
Several Timbers players required medical attention in Portland’s 1-0 win against the Earthquakes, and four San Jose players were booked for reckless play – including forward Alan Gordon, who was sent off after receiving two yellows. Still, rough-and-tumble forecasts aside, Valeri said he’s ready to go.
“I’m feeling good,” Valeri said. “Normal training is better for me, training with my teammates, with my team. It’s good for me; it’s good for the team. We are working to win in San Jose.”
Darlington Nagbe, normally a forward, started in Valeri’s place against Houston with Kalif Alhassan, Rodney Wallace and Ryan Johnson at the forward spots. Portland didn’t appear to miss a beat, holding a season-high 64.7-percent possession rate.
“This is a team,” Porter said. “These guys have shown all year long that it’s about the team. You take one guy out, next guy in, nothing changes. We have a system that we play. Everybody knows their role, and it’s not just the first XI. It’s the next XI. Every single day we’re preparing everybody on this team to be able to plug right in our system.”
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Porter has another lineup decision to make on the backline, as well.
Andrew Jean-Baptiste, who has started four games this season, was a late scratch from Sunday’s game with a hip injury. Veteran Mamadou “Futty” Danso started in his place alongside Mikael Silvestre, and earned high marks from Porter.
Porter said if Jean-Baptiste is healthy, he’ll have a tough choice.
“Futty was very good in the game,” Porter said. “And I like to build off past games, and if Futty is healthy it’s going to be hard to take him out of the lineup.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.