Diego Valeri - in action - against LA Galaxy
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Starter or sub? Diego Valeri huge for Portland Timbers either way, says Giovanni Savarese

Giovanni Savarese has used Diego Valeri twice off the bench during the Portland Timbers' six games in their run to the MLS is Back Tournament Final presented by Wells Fargo against Orlando City this Tuesday (8:30 pm ET | ESPN/Deportes, TSN, TVA Sports 2).

But Savarese says it's more a matter of scheduling circumstance than any sort of hint the 34-year-old may be transitioning to a super-sub role.

"I have heard many times some people talking about Diego coming off the bench when he only came off the bench two games and that’s all," Savarese said during a Monday conference call. "And it was just decisions that we made for those particular matches like we have made decisions in other matches for other players to come off the bench. It’s just something that we felt was the ideal scenario in those moments.

"But what I can say is that Diego is still playing at a high level and Diego is still showing that age doesn’t come because he’s still playing in a top-level way and it has shown in this tournament."

While Sebastian Blanco has made a case for tournament MVP with three goals and five assists, it's not as though Valeri has disappeared. 

He has two goals and three assists (one primary) in the competition, and has gone at least 89 minutes in all four of his starts. His two appearances off the bench — in which he still played 67 minutes total — came immediately following 90-minute outings in previous matches played four or five days prior.

Reports of Portland's diminishing reliance on their all-time leading scorer are greatly exaggerated, Savarese suggested.

"For us as a club he’s as important a competitor as Seba (Blanco), as (Diego) Chara, (Larrys) Mabiala and others," he said. "And every single player that we have at this club that makes our club better. But each individual understands that we can only achieve success with the contribution of each player for the group and with the strength of the group. So that’s what Valeri has been not just this year but he’s done a fantastic job for all the years he’s been at Portland."

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