The Portland Timbers made their first-ever trip to South Florida in the MLS era Saturday night, losing 2-1 to Inter Miami CF at DRV PNK Stadium in Ft. Lauderdale.
But the trip also included a special reunion of sorts as club legend Diego Valeri traveled from Argentina to visit the team at training on Friday and attended the game with his family on Saturday evening.
After transferring this past offseason to Club Atletico Lánus – the Argentine club where he began his pro career – Valeri had a break from his current team’s season and flew to Miami to watch Portland play. The Timbers' all-time leader in goals and assists joined the team's television broadcast team of Jake Zivin and Ross Smith ahead of Saturday’s match to talk about what it was like to reconnect with his former teammates.
“It was it was amazing,” he said of seeing them Friday after training. “It was so emotional for me. I got the chance to talk with them. It was it was a nice time.”
After signing as a Designated Player for Portland ahead of the 2013 MLS season from Lánus, Valeri went on to become the most decorated player in Timbers history: four MLS All-Star teams, three MLS Best XI selections, the 2017 Landon Donovan MLS Most Valuable Player Award, three Western Conference Championship trophies and he scored the fastest goal in MLS Cup history to help the team lift their first league championship in 2015.
After helping Portland to their third-ever MLS Cup appearance last December, Valeri returned to Lánus and is helping his new (and old) team battle it out in Argentina’s Primera División. While Valeri became a fan favorite in the Rose City – and Portland becoming beloved of the Valeri family – he said it’s been a pleasant return to Argentina.
“It’s been a great time for us as a family and, in Lánus, a very enjoyable time, with my club in my city,” he said.
But Valeri also said he still keeps very close tabs on the Timbers and his former teammates in Portland, watching every game and often talking with Sebastián Blanco – a player Valeri played with when both began their respective careers with Lánus. Though he acknowledged that watching Portland play, rather than being out on the field was “weird,” Valeri was also keen to acknowledge he is still closely connected to the club.
“I’m officially a Timbers fan now,” he said.