Timbers lock up rare game-breaker

[MLS TRANSACTIONS] Well that didn’t take long. Just a few days after Northwest rival Seattle signed U.S. captain Clint Dempsey in a staggering swoop, Portland has locked up one of its game-breakers.

The Timbers have converted the loan deal by which it acquired midfielder/DP Diego Valeri from Club Atletico Lanus into a transfer, and signed him to a new multi-year contract. His total compensation for the 2013 season is cited as $400,000 on the MLS Players’ Union salary list. Terms of the buyout and new contract were not disclosed.

Valeri, 27, has emerged as one of the top attackers in MLS while scoring four goals and contributing eight assists in 20 regular-season games. The native of the Lanus district of Buenos Aires came to MLS in January after playing nine seasons for his local club. He debuted as a pro in 2003 and in the past few seasons went out on loan to FC Porto and Spanish club Almeria. He captained CA Lanus in 2011 and has played three times for Argentina.

Valeri stamped his influence on the Timbers in preseason and quickly formed a strong cohesion with midfield partner Will Johnson and other players.

"He wants the ball every time, he never shies away from it," said Johnson in April. "Great guy, great teammate, it’ll be fun for people to get to know him over the course of the season and hopefully for many more after that. 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. It’s pretty easy to play with him."
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