Everyone knows that three goals in a game is a hat trick. What do you call three assists in a game? A shoe trick? I don’t know. Anyways, Diego Valeri notched three assists on Sunday against San Jose. Only three other MLS players have managed that feat this year, and Valeri is the only one to do so twice. The fact that the Timbers didn’t win in either match says a lot about their frustrating year, but that shouldn’t diminish Valeri’s contribution. He leads MLS with 83 chances created, and his 12 assists are behind only Landon Donovan. He is the biggest reason why the Timbers have one of the league’s most exciting attacks.
Words don’t quite do justice to Valeri’s ability, so I’ll step side and let these GIFs speak:
The first and third are shockingly similar, a ball played over the top for Alvas Powell making a run from right back. And Powell still had work to do there. But Valeri’s placement on all three is perfect. And it isn’t an exaggeration to say that Valeri could have had more.
Poor finishing plagued Portland on Sunday, which is weird to say about a team that scored three goals. Jon Busch deserves credit for making several good saves, but the Timbers should have had more than three.
Not content merely with creating chances, Valeri also led the game in shots on goal. Like Lee Nguyen, Valeri shoots a lot for a midfielder, and particularly from outside of the box. His 83 shots are fifth in MLS, but his 7 goals are merely tied for 24th. Some of his goals have been spectacular, but the case could be made that Valeri is shooting too much, from too far away.
The designated-player rule was created in 2007 with high-profile players like David Beckham and Cuauhtemoc Blanco in mind, but DPs have evolved. Effectively, there are now three types of DPs: old, high-profile stars joining the league after great careers abroad, members of the U.S. national team, and less-famous players, with years left in them, whose talent commands a salary above what MLS can normally provide.
Portland has the longest season ticket waiting list in MLS; they do not need to worry about drawing fans. And so they have the luxury of using their DP slots on three of the third type. Valeri arrived before last year from Argentina, at the age of 28, and he’s given the Timbers 17 goals and 25 assists. 24-year-old Fanendo Adi joined the Timbers mid-season from Copenhagen, and has scored six goals in 17 games. Liam Ridgewell, 30, is a Premier League veteran, but not with any of the big clubs. He has two goals, but the hope is that he’ll shore up a truly bad defense.
If the Timbers can’t at least make the playoffs this season, it will come as a huge disappointment. They have the raw talent to be much better than they’ve shown, but time is running out to prove that.