While the Portland Timbers continued training this week ahead of the upcoming match against the Philadelphia Union at Providence Park Saturday (8pm PT, FOX 12 PLUS), two Portland players—midfielder Diego Valeri and defender Marco Farfan—were training with a unique group in Atlanta, GA.
Reigning MLS MVP Valeri, voted to the MLS All-Star Fan XI, wrapped up his second training stint with the All-Stars yesterday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium ahead of their Wednesday night meeting with Italian Serie A giants Juventus (4:30pm PT, ESPN). MLS All-Star head coach Tata Martino has limited time to get his charges ready, but Valeri said that the sessions have been productive.
“We prepared for the game as best we can and try to compete,” Valeri said following Tuesday’s session. “Because the idea is to have this day to see how we can compete against a team [Juventus] that has a lot of worth.
“Even if it is preseason [for them] and it’s a friendly, we know that there’s prestige always when you play a game like this so we need to compete.”
Portland defender Farfan, meanwhile, was part of the MLS Homegrown team—a squad made up of some of the league’s best young Academy produced players—who dueled Liga MX’s Tigres UANL U-20s Tuesday night in a 1-1 draw at the Atlanta United FC’s Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground. Farfan was part of the team’s starting XI and played the entire first half of the match. In the 25th minute, he helped set up Real Salt Lake’s Sebastián Saucedo for a chance that was saved by the Tigres goalkeeper.
Along with myriad All-Star Game week festivities and events, Valeri has enjoyed his time getting to know and talk with some of the league’s best players. He was seen chatting with Minnesota United FC defender Francisco Calvo and teammates at AUFC training center Monday as well as fellow Argentine and Montréal Impact playmaker Ignacio Piatti Tuesday.
All-Star week is an MLS experience that is distinctive in world soccer in how it brings together a host of players for a very short period of time. For the four-time All-Star Valeri, he has relished the time spent in Atlanta.
“The experience has been great,” he said. “It’s a fantastic environment and it’s a special game right in the middle of the season. We have the opportunity to spend time with players that we normally play against and [have time] outside of the field which is great.”