Diego Valeri on being in MLS MVP reckoning: "To be named is an honor"

He went from contender to favorite thanks to a record-breaking few months, but Diego Valeri isn’t ready to accept the Landon Donovan MVP award just yet.

That’s because the Portland Timbers standout has too much respect for New York City FC captain and defending MLS MVP David Villa.

“The respect for him is about his career, his humility, his professionalism at this point of his career,” Valeri told MLSsoccer.com. “As a player, I respect him because I see in him a lot of things I wish to do on the field.”

Valeri, who broke an MLS record this year by scoring in nine consecutive games, said he got a chance to talk to Villa during the preseason in Los Angeles and again at the All-Star Game. Already impressed by Villa’s skills on the field, Valeri learned a little bit more about the NYCFC captain as a person.

“He surprised me more than on the field,” Valeri said. “He’s very humble, good people.”

Like Villa, Valeri shares that mentality and the scoring prowess. The Argentine maestro heads into Decision Day presented by AT&T second in the Golden Boot race with 21 goals, three behind Chicago’s Nemanja Nikolic and one in front of Villa.

“If you can give your best on the field and if you have the opportunity to have success in what you do, show humility and put that into the locker room,” Valeri said.

Being in the same conversation with Villa as the top player in MLS this season is not only an honor, but its also inspirational for Valeri.

“It’s an honor to be named in this race with David, who is a high, high level player of the world, so it’s an honor, I enjoy it,” Valeri said. “It gives me energy and obviously happiness to keep enjoying my profession and this game of course and it gives me energy to give to my team. That’s the most important at the end.”

Like Villa, Valeri puts individual accolades second. But he understands that individual success usually goes hand-in-hand with team success. Being named MLS MVP for the first time would be validation for Valeri.

“To be named in that award is an honor first because there are hundreds of players who can be named too,” Valeri said. “I would be satisfied about my sacrifice and the sacrifice of my team because at the end an individual honor is a team honor too.”