PORTLAND, Ore. – Five games do not an MLS season make. Yet with five goals scored already in those five games, it's hard to discount the MVP candidacy of Portland Timbers midfield maestro Diego Valeri.
Against a New England Revolution defense that limited Portland to only two shots on goal in a 1-1 draw Sunday, it was Valeri who gave the Timbers the lead in the 12th minute with a stunning volley.
With that fifth goal of the season, Valeri moved into second place in the MLS Golden Boot race, notable in part because the 30-year-old Argentine has been as deadly a provider as a scorer over his career.
Valeri's opener was worthy of winning any game, though Portland's failure to build on that lead meant the strike not be remembered as a match-winner.
"That first half was electric," Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said after the match. "You haven't seen a team play like that on this field. We didn't get the goals, but that [performance] was big time."
Porter left Providence Park disappointed to be splitting the points after New England’s Lee Nguyen's late strike resulted in what he called a "tough" result.
"The play was overall very positive on both sides of the ball," he said after the Timbers outshot the Revs 16-13 and outpossessed them 55% to 45%.
"We thought we deserved the three points," Porter added. "This game isn't always about what we deserve; It's what happens."
Valeri now has 42 goals for the Timbers, which is just three shy of Fanendo Adi and John Bain for all-time tally for goals across all eras of the franchise.
With goals like the one Valeri scored Sunday, contorting his body to rocket a loose ball out of the air and beyond Revolution goalkeeper Cody Cropper, expect him to keep climbing the charts.
"When you look at a guy like John Bain and what he accomplished, for [Adi and Valeri] to be in that category is exciting," Porter said earlier in the week. "It's a great milestone for I think them as individual players, but I think also for the club and what we're continuing to accomplish."