Diego Valeri makes key plays to be "the difference" in Timbers victory

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Diego Valeri continued to build his case for the the Landon Donovan MLS MVP award on Friday, coming through when the Portland Timbers needed him.

For 64 minutes, the New York Red Bulls' physicality and pressing kept the Timbers locked in a scoreless draw. But after beating a defender for the ball, Diego Chara sent in a low cross that Valeri re-directed past Luis Robles to put the home team on the board at Providence Park. Then in the sixth minute of stoppage time, Valeri had the assist to finish the game off in what was ultimately a 2-0 win

Valeri, who joined the 50/50 club last weekend, becoming the first Timber to reach 100 combined goals and assists, now has a share of the Timbers' all-time goal scoring record, too. Leaguewide he's third in scoring with 14 goals on the season, and in the Top 10 in assists, with nine, as the Timbers are in a tie for first place in the Western Conference ahead of the remaining Week 24 fixtures.

It takes more than a single player to pick up points, but the Timbers recognize the special impact of Valeri.

“We win the game because of the team and individuals make plays,” Timbers coach Caleb Porter said in his remarks following the game. “We always have to play as a team. But we need individuals to make plays in the box and we got that today. That was the difference.”

Porter reserved special praise for the game-winning goal.

“The technique on that goal, that was world class,” he said. “It’s just what we need from our top players. Every team that wins in this league has guys who scores goals. Whether it’s [Sebastian] Giovinco, Clint Dempsey, [Jozy] Altidore or David Villa. Robbie Keane did it for LA when they won their championship. We’re getting it out of our guys.”

In typical fashion, Valeri deferred to the team's goals above his own, only admitting it would be an "honor" to be recognized, but his aim remains to "try to give my best to the team."

As the Timbers continue their run for an MLS Cup Playoffs berth, Porter feels they are on their best run of form since they came bursting out of the gates in the spring. Noting that key players Fanendo Adi and Liam Ridgewell are still recovering from injuries, Porter believes his team “still has another level.” 

“We’ve been playing well as a whole; we just weren’t getting those moments,” Porter said of his team’s struggles to close out games in recent weeks. "[Tonight] we got plays out of our guys. Plays to stop the goals. Plays to get the next goal. We’re good late in games. That’s been a trademark of our teams. We find a way to grind out games. was disappointed up to this point that we haven’t shown more of that mettle and grit and that ability to grind out games. Today we finally got that breakthrough.”