Diego Valeri

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Timbers squeeze out victory, Nashville continues to await first MLS win

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The game in 200 words (or less):  By no means did the Portland Timbers put on a show – at least not the type of show that would keep one intrigued –  on Sunday against Nashville SC. But they got the job done, squeezing out a 1-0 victory against one of MLS’ two newcomers. For the majority of the game, the Timbers, for a lack of better words, parked the bus on Nashville, clogging their third of the field with Timber-white shirts. It worked: despite generating a total of 14 shots, Nashville were unable to crack the code. How did the Timbers manage to win if all they did was park the bus? Well, they didn’t just bunker; they galvanized forward periodically. And out of all the three shots that Giovanni Savarese’s men generated throughout the night, one fell in the 12th minute. Diego Valeri’s screamer was, at the end of the day, all Portland needed to edge Nashville, who still don’t know what it’s like to celebrate an MLS win.

Three moments that mattered

12′ – It’s early, but Valeri is on pace for 34 goals this season— This right-footed volley has to be in Valeri’s top 20:

69′ – Godoy… — Anibal Godoy was Steve Clark’s fingertips away from making Nashville SC history.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage | Standings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Steve Clark

Goalscorers: Valeri(12′)

MLS: Valeri re-signs with Timbers, and more

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The Portland Timbers are bringing back their fan-favorite former MVP winner on a new, long-term contract.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The Timbers announced on Monday that it had agreed to a multi-year contract, using target allocation money (TAM) with Diego Valeri. The news ends a months-long saga that had fans fearing Valeri could leave as a free agent this winter. Valeri was reportedly still seeking Designated Player level money, so it took some financial maneuvering with TAM to make this deal work.

Valeri has seen his goal numbers drop significantly the last couple of seasons since his 21 goals in 2017, but he did have 16 assists last year. However, at age 33, you wonder how much more he has left in the tank.

Either way, it’s a huge boost to the Timbers that Valeri is back. He’s a fixture in Portland, he makes this team better, and now the Timbers can focus on adding more attacking pieces to their squad. There’s two Designated Player slots open and the Timbers are usually open to spending big on a signing. Now, the attention turns to a new Designated Player coming this month or in January.

Here’s some more news across MLS:


Report: Brazilian club Gremio interested in Martinez

It’s safe to say that Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez’s first season in MLS didn’t exactly go to plan.

Now, if the reports are true, he could find his way back to South America, albeit not to his former club River Plate. According to TYC Sports, Brazilian club Gremio are interested in adding Martinez for their 2020 season. Gremio finished in fourth place in Brazil’s Serie A Championship this past season, earning them entry into the 2020 Copa Libertadores as well.

Should Martinez want to head back to South America, he could do worse than joining one of Brazil’s giant clubs and getting the chance to play in the Copa Libertadores.

Should Martinez stay, he could take advantage from a full preseason with Atlanta United and potentially a better relationship with coach Frank De Boer. The two clashed at times last year.

Main takeaways from MLS contract deadline day

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Major League Soccer saw a lot of big names in the news as “Contract Deadline Day” played out across the U.S. and Canada.

— The New York Red Bulls watched two all-timers walk out the door, as Bradley Wright-Phillips did not get a new contract and the club declined its option on Luis Robles (STORY).

— Not a player move, but Austin FC announced the hiring of former NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna to the same position.

[ MORE: PST’s talk 1v1 with Reyna earlier this season ]

— Toronto FC is yet to reach a deal to keep Michael Bradley in town, but remains in contract talks with its captain. The same is true for Nicolas Benezet, while Drew Moor is out-of-contract.

— And that’s also what’s happening in Portland with Diego Valeri, the longtime star in talks with the team despite not having his option picked up.

Chicago Fire announced a new branding initiative, changing its logo from a classic crest to something else and dropping the SC for an FC. Like Columbus before them, everyone will still call them the fire and ignore the SC, FC, or whatever see. It’s what happens when you take a formal nickname.

The club also cut ties with playmakers Nico Gaitan and Aleksandar Katai.

— Minnesota United remains in talks to bring back Reading loanee and reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year winner Vito Mannone, and that means longtime backstop Bobby Shuttleworth will hit the open market.

— Orlando declined its option on Dillon Powers, and also let the clock run out on the contract of one-time megastar Sacha Kljestan.

— Real Salt Lake did not reach an agreement with Kyle Beckerman on a new deal, though MLSSoccer.com thinks he’s still in the mix.

— New England is letting Juan Agudelo walk into free agency.

— Atlanta United exercised the contract option for Julian Gressel, but he’s being badly underpaid and the club needs to find salary room for a proper new deal.

— Thierry Henry is keeping his two brightest attacker, with Ignacio Piatti getting another year at the club and Saphir Taider seeing his loan from Bologna made permanent.

— The Philadelphia Union did not exercise their option on Marco Fabian, and are letting Haris Medunjanin leave without a new deal.

— Roman Torres did not see his option exercised by the Sounders, and Kim Kee-hee is also leaving the club.

— Sporting KC waves goodbye to Seth Sinovic, Krisztian Nemeth, Benny Feilhaber, and Gedion Zelalem.

RSL knocks out Portland to reach West semifinals (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less): Real Salt Lake outlasted the Portland Timbers in a constantly changing winter’s climate at altitude at Rio Tinto Stadium to book their place in the Western Conference semifinals, where they’ll visit the Seattle Sounders. A massive amount of rain and sleet fell throughout the first half, followed by a brief period of heavy snow, followed by clear(er) skies more conducive to actually playing soccer. Damir Kreilach opened the scoring in the 28th minute, but the visitors drew level barely 60 seconds into the second half.

Everyone had braced themselves for extra time, but Jefferson Savarino played the part of hero in the 87th minute when he slotted home past Steve Clark from a tough angle.

The career of Nick Rimando, the all-time record holder for essentially every goalkeeping statistic who will retire at the end of the 2019 season, is extended by at least one more game.

[ MORE: Lampard “pleased for Pulisic,” praises subs in Chelsea win ]

What did we learn?

  • Slow start leaves Portland an uphill battle: To say that Portland started this game slowly would be the understatement of the season.

After all that, it took Portland 37 seconds to register a shot in the second half. The ensuing corner kick wound up in the back of the net.

  • Portland should re-sign Valeri. End: It doesn’t matter whether the sides are hung up on money or length of contract — heck, even if he wants full control of the club’s roster as next technical director — it simply doesn’t matter. Diego Valeri is the (MLS) Portland Timbers; he is their best player in their MLS era; he is still their best player in 2019. Valeri didn’t play the first 63 minutes of this game, and Portland managed all of four shots in that time. They equaled that number in the first seven minutes Valeri was on the field. If you look up “difference maker” in the dictionary, it will simply read Valeri, Diego.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Damir Kreilach

Goalscorers: Kreilach (28′), Asprilla (47′), Savarino (87′)

MLS weekend preview: Quakes look to stay alive, Revs one win away from playoffs

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It’s the penultimate weekend of MLS regular season, and the playoff picture is nowhere near being completed, especially in the Western Conference. With two Sundays to go, four teams remain in the hunt for the final spot in the East. In the West, the fifth, sixth and seventh spots are yet to be decided.

Here’s a quick preview of each match being played this Sunday:

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Seattle Sounders: Will the San Jose Earthquakes’ miraculous turnaround under Matias Almeyda go the next level with the clinching of a playoff spot? Only a point away from surpassing the red line, San Jose are statistically forced to win against a playoff-destined Seattle Sounders, who look to move as high as second in the Western Conference with two games to play, on Sunday if they want to make an already laudable reconfiguration into a generational one. With the return of Almeyda, Chris Wondolowski and Cristian Espinoza, the Quakes’ chances will be as good as they’ll get at this point of the season: a coin flip.

New England Revolution vs. NYCFC:  NYCFC’s visit to Gillette Stadium is the Eastern Conference’s biggest game of the weekend. Domenec Torrent’s side are in a comfortable position – six points clear of second place Philadelphia Union. The New England Revolution, however, are a win away from clinching a playoff berth. Then again, with Bruce Arena leading the Revs, one can assume that the home team will sneak into the postseason.

Sporting Kansas City vs. Portland Timbers: After a rocky start to their season, the Portland Timbers are in the driver’s seat to make the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Timbers’ followers, clinching playoffs is not the topic of interests. After six years, Diego Valeri is reportedly playing his final days in Rose City, as contract talks between both parties have hit a roadblocks. The question now becomes: will Valeri’s  uncertain future affect the Timbers’ on the field starting this Sunday against an eliminated Sporting KC?

Chicago Fire vs. Toronto FC: After 13 years, countless goals and memories, the Chicago Fire say goodbye to Bridgeview, Illinois. The Fire, who are relocating to Soldier Field next season in the hopes of drawing interest from proper Chicago’s large soccer fanbase, are not entirely out of the playoff race either. With a loss from the Revs and win at home, Veljko Paunovic and company would be only a point removed from New England. Chicago’s latest result – a scoreless draw against a poor Cincinnati – doesn’t give the impression that they’ll be able to edge a balanced Toronto, who are in the postseason yet again.

Real Salt Lake vs. Houston Dynamo: Real Salt Lake continue to produce, despite their internal turmoil. On Friday, the club parted ways with general manager Craig Waibel in the wake of a lawsuit raised by former coach Mike Petke, who made a reference that Waibel was critical of owner Dell Loy Hansen and said he was resigning from his position at the end of the season. Recent history indicates the team will respond positively to such self-inflicted roadblocks. But with only a foot across the red line, it will be interesting to see how they show up against a crumbling Houston Dynamo.

Colorado Rapids vs. FC Dallas: Robin Fraser’s new-look Colorado Rapids aren’t out yet, but their playoff chances hang on by a thread, if that. On the other side, FC Dallas – a point above San Jose – look to win out and, as a result, sneak into the playoffs. They’ll have to do so against a new Rapids scheme in which attackers and defenders alike are scoring. No easy task for a Dallas team that has allowed five goals in their last three games.

FC Cincinnati vs. Orlando City: While Carlos Vela actively looks to break the league record for the most scored goals in a season, FC Cincinnati hopes not to be the team to allow the most goals in a single season. They’re one away from doing so. With Orlando City, who need to win out in order to have any last-minute chances to qualify, Ron Jans’ side’s probabilities are slim.

Montreal Impact vs. Atlanta United: Montreal Impact are one of the four teams fighting for a spot in the Eastern Conference’s big party. With midweek Canadian Championship celebrations still fresh, the Impact may have plenty of inspiration to pick up the reaming six points (or not). Jose Martinez-less Atlanta United, on the other hand, look to bounce back from a crushing loss to NYCFC that cost them the second spot in the East.

Columbus Crew vs. Philadelphia Union: Fresh off a win against the Quakes, Jim Curtin and company look to separate themselves from Atlanta United, and seal second place in the East. The Crew, who have proven to be a threat time and time again this season, will put up a fight.

Minnesota United vs. LAFC: With a Supporters’ Shield to point towards, LAFC have every reason to take things slow until the second round of the Western Conference playoffs. That said, given that Vela is one goal away from tying Martinez’s league record, though, the Black-and-Gold will likely continue moving forward at full speed until the Mexican writes his name in the record book. If that holds true, LAFC and second place Minnesota United will be a must-watch.

New York Red Bulls vs. D.C. United:  A rivalry with two games left in the regular season is never a bad thing, especially when both teams are looking to climb the standings before the playoffs. To add to a thick plot, both teams are already in good form, and only a point apart in the Eastern Conference standings.

LA Galaxy vs. Vancouver Whitecaps: Just a couple of months ago, the LA Galaxy were in serious trouble of making the playoffs. But with the improvement of their backline and the non-stop dominating play from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Galaxy now find themselves playoff bound. It’s the type of transformation the Whitecaps were looking for but were never able to accomplish in Marc Dos Santos’ first year at the helm. As expected, the home side will look to exploit that and aim for the West’s second spot.