BEAVERTON, Ore. – When it comes to José Valencia, the conversation almost always focuses on the future.
And in the Portland Timbers’ latest Houdini act this past Saturday, a comeback 2-2 draw at Vancouver, the young Colombian showed a glimpse of what that future may hold. The 21-year-old forward came on for the game’s final 10 minutes with the Timbers down a man and a goal and provided the equalizer in rather spectacular fashion.
Valencia tracked down a long ball, collected it between two defenders, calmly sidestepped Andy O’Brien and slotted past goalkeeper Brad Knighton with a left-footed shot. A moment of brilliance that will surely add to his cache with fans calling for the future to be now.
“I think we’ve been bringing him along the right way,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said in his postgame press conference. “We understand his talent. We’re very excited about his future.”
More than a year after he joined the club amidst much fanfare only to have his entire first season with the team lost to a knee injury and subsequent surgery, Valencia has only seen brief action since the start of his second season. Saturday’s appearance was only his fourth of the season and first since he played one minute March 16 at Seattle.
But he did a lot with his 13 minutes against Vancouver, not only scoring the equalizer but firing off three shots in all.
“He’s the type of guy that you’re going to put in when you’re chasing the game, and we haven’t been chasing games that many games,” Porter said. “We felt like we needed a little bit of an extra push with a player, and he’s a dynamic player. He pulled a play off to help us get the point.”
It’s a nice problem to have for Porter, who continues to see his substitutions pay off. Forward Rodney Wallace subbed into the Seattle match and ended up scoring the equalizer in the Timbers’ first road comeback that resulted in a point. Wallace has since parlayed his solid bench play into a starting spot that he has yet to relinquish.
Porter has said he tries to return strong performances in training and games with playing time, so will Valencia be the next to reap those rewards?
“He hasn’t gotten a lot of minutes, but with his minutes tonight he did very well,” Porter said. “And that gives us even more optimism for his future in the club.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.