CHESTER, Pa. – Carlos Valdés always considered the Philadelphia Union to be like family.
In many ways, then, Monday felt like a family reunion for him.
After weeks of negotiations, the Union held a press conference Monday to announce the long-awaited return of Valdés, who starred in Philly in 2011 and 2012 before being sent away on loan for a year-and-a-half.
Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz also confirmed that a “new, multi-year deal is in place” for Valdés, who played for Colombia at the 2014 World Cup.
“When I left Philly, I always was thinking to come back one day because I think this is my second family,” Valdés said. “I love the fans. I love the team. I love the people in Philadelphia. I love my teammates. As soon as the World Cup finished, I was thinking again about coming back to Philadelphia.”
The main reason Valdés asked for a loan following the 2012 MLS season was to boost his chances to make Colombia’s World Cup squad in the eyes of Cafeteros head coach José Pekerman, who wanted his players closer to home.
And after playing for Colombia’s Santa Fe in 2013 and Argentina’s San Lorenzo earlier this year helped him accomplish his dream of playing in Brazil, Valdés said he hoped to return to the Union, who he helped lead to the playoffs in 2011 and with whom he made the All-Star Game in 2012.
And the Union, who still owned his rights, certainly wanted him back to bolster a struggling backline, in large part due to his familiarity with the team and the league.
“The good thing is that it’s a seamless transition,” Union interim manager Jim Curtin said. “He knows what it looks like in Houston when it’s 120 degrees and you have to fly back to Philadelphia and you’re on the road again to Dallas.
"All the challenges in the league, it’s very smooth for him because he’s familiar with not only the locker room but also the way the league works and the competitive nature of the league where every game is kind of like a playoff game.”
While Philly’s roster – and coaching staff – has certainly changed a bit since he left, there are still a few players that Valdés played with during his stint with the Union, including fellow defenders Sheanon Williams and Ray Gaddis, as well as 2012 center back partner Amobi Okugo (who’s now in the midfield).
Curtin said that when Valdés arrived on Monday, there were “lots of high fives and laughing and guys grabbing him in the locker room.”
“I have great memories in the Philadelphia locker room,” Valdés said. “But I want to start living a new experience, so I think this is another chapter of my life.”
And the latest chapter of his life, in which he played a game at the World Cup and enjoyed a wild ride to the quarterfinals with one of the tournament’s most exciting teams, is one he’ll never forget.
“For me, it was one of the most beautiful things ever in my life,” Valdés said. “I cannot say how good it was being in Brazil … but it was something unbelievable. I will remember for all of my life being in the World Cup.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsocce.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.