Why Diego Valeri should be your new favorite MLS player

I’m going to miss a lot about Portland, Ore. I’ll miss the weather, its abundance of green, food snobbery that means the most mundane meal’s great, and a beer culture that makes the rest of the country look like teetotalers. Miami seems fun, but Portland’s legitimately great.

When it comes to Rose City’s soccer, there’s one thing I’ll miss above all else, and while the fans were amazing and the Thorns gave me new hope for women’s professional soccer, that one thing is Diego Valeri. For newly two years, he was the best part of my professional week. I wasn’t a Timbers fan, but I became a fan of Diego’s.

Last night, Valeri provided another reason why. Scoring twice in Portland’s 3-0 win over San Jose, the Argentine moved to 11 goals and 14 assists on the year. It’s his second straight season (out of two) with double-digits on both categories. Only six players in MLS’s history have matched that feat:

Last night’s performance wasn’t one of Valeri’s best. His first goal was from the spot. His second was a tap-in. Compared to games he’s absolutely dominated (13 chances created in San Jose’s last visit to Portland), it was mundane, except in the goal column.

In that sense, Valeri’s amazingness didn’t start until after the game, when fans got a glimpse of what the man is like off the field:

It’s almost cliché to look at a shot like this and begin singing a player’s virtues (“not as a player, but as a person”), but in Valeri’s case, it seems true. The intellectual curiosity that drew him to the United States, one that allows hint dabble in three languages, comes across in his empathy – his want to connect both after the game and in the events he attends in the community. For him and his family, the league and the country are the chances of a lifetime, ones they don’t plan on leaving any time soon.

When you see him light up at the sight of his daughter, you see the poignancy that underscores his sincerity. It’s beautiful. The man makes it impossible not to like him.

Perhaps that’s not the most journalistically-centered view — and yes, perhaps this post would be better for a Monday — but this is sports. We should be allowed to love things, and miss them.

Now, particularly in a city without an MLS team (for now), I’m missing the hell out of Diego Valeri.

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