Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America DailySoccer World DailySpecial EditionAround The NetSoccer Business InsiderCollege Soccer ReporterYouth Soccer ReporterSoccer on TVSoccer America ClassifiedsGame Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalkSoccer America ConfidentialYouth Soccer InsiderWorld Cup Watch
RSS FeedsArchivesManage SubscriptionsSubscribe
Order Current IssueSubscribeManage My SubscriptionRenew My SubscriptionGift Subscription
My AccountJoin Now
Tournament CalendarCamps & AcademiesSoccer GlossaryClassifieds
MLS Awards: Valeri's role in Portland revival stamps him as top newcomer
by Ridge Mahoney, November 2nd, 2013 7:26PM

TAGS:  mls, portland timbers


By Ridge Mahoney

Though this award seems clear-cut –- it recognizes those players making the greatest contributions in their first MLS seasons – there are different ways to evaluate the candidates.

Is it something akin to a team MVP award, i.e. a player whose first season significantly transformed his new team? Or is it simply the newcomer who posted the best numbers and/or most consistently good games regardless of how the season turned out for his team.

We used a combination of these two intertwined criteria and as such our list includes players who took their teams to successful seasons as well as one who did what he could and bears little fault for his team’s disappointing season.

Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri was his team’s MVP and earned mention for the league-wide award as well, which reflects his impact on the third-year team that rose from the ashes of a disastrous 2012 to win the Western Conference. He led the Timbers in goals with 10 and MLS with 13, and when he didn’t score himself he played enough intelligent balls and drew enough attention that three of his teammates each potted nine goals.

Valeri, 27, was signed on loan from Argentine club Lanus -- where he was coached by former Crew midfielder and Argentine international Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who recommended he consider a move to MLS -- and did well enough that Portland purchased his rights and made him a DP in early August.

“He’s so easy to play with,” says teammate Will Johnson, who along with Diego Chara buttresses central midfield in support of Valeri. “I mean every time you get the ball, Diego just turns and makes a difficult pass that most players in this league can’t make.”

New England’s improved defense -- it cut down its 44 goals allowed in 2012 to 38 this year -- is due in part to centerback Jose Goncalves, who is one of the top candidates for MLS Defender of the Year. He played every minute of every game as the Revs, who missed the playoffs last year, finished 2013 in third.

Clint Irwin is a classic American soccer story of a player who rose from a small college (Elon University), spent a few seasons sharpening his game in Canada's CSL and USL PRO, and made the jump to MLS after a preseason trial. In 32 games, he posted 10 shutouts, made 91 saves, and compiled a goals-allowed average of 1.10 while showing more poise and acumen than do most 24-year-old keepers who are new to the big time.

The Timbers needed a Plan B in May after offseason signing Mikael Silvestre went down with a torn ACL in his left knee. They acquired Pa Modou Kah, a Gambian native who represents Norway internationally. His solid play in the back line is one reason the Timbers led MLS in shutouts with 15. He has started 20 of 22 games since debuting May 25.

Another dismal season for Chivas USA at least introduced fans to striker Erick “Cubo” Torres, 20, who scored seven goals in his first nine games before being blanked the rest of the season.

Sporting Kansas City striker Claudio Bieler looked like a strong challenger to Valeri in the first half of the season, but he faded in the second half.

Here are the top five in the chase for 2013 MLS Newcomer of the Year:

1. Diego Valeri (Portland).
2. Jose Goncalves (New England).
3. Clint Irwin (Colorado).
4. Pa Modou Kah (Portland).
5. Erick Torres (Chivas USA).

Who's your pick for MLS Newcomer of the Year? Begin the debate on Twitter or Facebook.

No comments yet.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now



Recent Soccer America Confidential
USA is better off without the hysteria surrounding El Tri    
The hiring of Juan Carlos Osorio marks the sixth time in the past two years that ...
Year of parity marks 20th MLS season    
There are certainly some poor teams in MLS this season for which parity seems a long ...
U.S. national team succession will begin sooner than you might think    
As Jurgen Klinsmann stated in his pre-Concacaf Cup camp interview with U.S. Soccer, Saturday's USA-Mexico game ...
MLS: Best of September    
More brilliance from the Atomic Ant, another top forwar.d robbed by the league's all-time shutout king, ...
Sporting KC isn't about to rest on its impressive laurels    
There is a lot to like about Sporting Kansas City. Its ownership group has built one ...
Does the Open Cup final need a home, too?    
Since closing of the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame building in Oneonta, N.Y,. five years ago, ...
MLS home teams are winning at a near-record pace    
Has the rapid pace of MLS expansion and corresponding increase in soccer-specific stadiums translated into better ...
MLS stars align at just the right time    
September was a crazy month in MLS. Not once but in two consecutive weeks the top ...
Western Conference race merits attention from all MLS fans, regardless of loyalties    
By expanding its playoff field from five teams per conference to six, MLS has broadened interest ...
The case for and against a summer off    
We should know soon enough whether the Copa Centenario goes ahead as planned -- the final ...
>> Soccer America Confidential Archives