MLS Moves: Timbers sign 'special player' to extension

The big news in Portland is bad news for the rest of MLS.

Diego Valeri has signed an extension to his Designated Player contract, the details of which were not revealed in a release sent out by the Timbers on Wednesday.

Under his former contract, his base salary for the 2016 season is listed as $600,000 on documents distributed by the MLS Players’ Union. In 20 games (all starts) this season, he has scored 10 goals and chalked up five assists.

The Argentine-born Valeri, 30, has ranked among the top midfielders in MLS since coming to Portland on loan from Lanus in January 2013. No other player has accumulated as many assists, 40, in that time span, and he’s also scored 33 goals in 106 appearances (100 starts).

During his first season, Portland bought out the loan deal and for 2013 Valeri was named Newcomer of the Year and landed a spot on the MLS Best XI. He scored 10 goals and led the league with 13 assists. In 2014 he set personal bests of 11 goals and 14 assists and kept a place on the Best XI. Injuries limited him to 22 games (20 starts) last year and he recorded eight assists, the lowest total of his MLS career, and scored two goals. In the playoffs he registered four assists and tallied the earliest goal in MLS Cup history (27 seconds) in a 2-1 Timbers victory that captured the team its first league title.

On Sunday, Valeri's goal in the 65th minute against Sporting Kansas City with each team down a man sparked a 3-0 victory. On a deflected header from Jack McInerney bounced more than a foot off the ground, he slashed the ball with the outside of his right foot past helpless SKC keeper Alec Kann.

“It was an absolute tremendous finish from Valeri and it breaks the game open for us,” said midfielder Jack Jewsbury, whose strike in the 87th minute sealed up the three points. "That’s what you need from big players and that’s why those guys are on the roster because they can do the special things, whether it’s that final ball that they play or a goal like tonight. He’s one of those special players and we’re just blessed to have him on our team, to be quite honest."

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