Photo: Nicolae Stoian
Carlos Valdes was an unquestionably talented soccer player when he arrived in Philadelphia.
A season and a half later, he is also a leader, a captain, and an All-Star.
Valdes was plugged into a back line featuring emerging star Sheanon Williams, stalwart Danny Califf, steady Jordan Harvey, and the calming presence of Faryd Mondragon. All he had to do was show up and play his game.
A year later, Mondragon and Harvey were gone, Califf was in and out of the lineup, and Williams was shuttling between the center and the right back positions. In one season, Valdes went from the new guy to the rock on which the rest of the back five leaned.
And make no mistake: The burden has been heavy. But Valdes shoulders it with unflappable ease.
A week of wonders
Against Toronto, Kansas City and Montreal, Valdes attempted 178 passes and was successful with 162 (91%) of them. He has lost the ball a total of 22 times in three matches, and that number includes pressured clearances upfield. John Hackworth wants his team to care for the ball and Valdes has partnered with Amobi Okugo to set a high standard.
Of the three goals the Union allowed last week, only one came from open play: A shot from the halfway line by Graham Zusi. The other two came from plays that Valdes could not have stopped without openly revealing his X-Man powers.
And then there was his goal. The one he wanted and deserved. After three games in one week, Valdes still found the energy to look for scraps in front of the Montreal net, and his fine finish was a just reward for the captain.
In fact, if there was any downside to Valdes’ week, it was that he needed MLS commissioner Don Garber to stick up for him.
Yes, Carlos Valdes is as deserving as any Player of the Week PSP has ever featured. He was our unanimous choice, and if we would have polled Canadian soccer fans, Valdes would undoubtably still be the unanimous choice. There’s no point in polling Kansas City since Jacob Peterson’s belief that LiveStrong Sporting Whoopdedoo Whizbang Soccer Palace has a far superior atmosphere to PPL Park stinks of an ignorance that no survey wishes to capture.
This is the first Player of the Week honor for Valdes, but it won’t be the last. He may be too modest to say it, but he has quietly become the polestar that the team looks to for guidance, stability and, apparently, last minute winners.
Congratulations, El Kaiser.