Photo: Paul Rudderow
Carlos Valdes owns this silence.
The reasons for his impending departure from Philadelphia Union remain somewhat of a mystery, but the fact that he is leaving seems rather clear.
Valdes will be the third Philadelphia Union captain to depart the team in three years. This time, there won’t be any hand-wringing. No one will call for the manager to be fired. There will be no going away party at some Philadelphia-area pub. He will not say he wishes he could stay. The Union have already acquired his replacement in Jeff Parke.
Few know exactly why.
As Valdes tweeted (in Spanish) on Monday, choosing a quote sometimes attributed to William Shakespeare, “It is better to own your silence … than to be a slave to your words!” He has succeeded. Valdes quietly left town for Latin America after the MLS season ended and, since then, has told a Spanish-language television station that his prospective loan would initially be for six months. And that’s the key word: “inicialmente.” A loan is just his path to finality.
The Union have confirmed nothing, but of course, we’ve been here before. The league office is cagey about revealing anything on transactions before they are finalized, and there are all sorts of ways to craft statements to the press. “We have not given permission for Carlos to train with Santa Fe or any other club in the off-season,” a Union spokesperson told PSP last week. “We also have yet to be contacted by any club regarding a loan for Carlos.” But surely Valdes or his agent has contacted the Union about a loan, since he was obviously perfectly willing to contact the Spanish-speaking world about it via TV and radio.
So he’s going, going, gone.
If you’re looking for a reason why he’s leaving, an answer may be the 2014 World Cup.
Valdes is a good but not great player, a key cog in any back line that deploys him but not a star in his own right. He is alternately underappreciated and overrated but undoubtedly one of the Union’s best and most reliable players, exactly the kind of player every team needs.
He is also a stalwart defender good enough to start for the Colombian national team, which looks headed for its first World Cup since 1998. For a soccer-mad country like Colombia that has never gotten past the shadow of the two Escobars, this is huge. It could be the high point of a player’s career.
The Colombian national team coach, Jose Pekerman, seems to want Valdes playing in South America. A similar motivation may be behind Fredy Montero’s unusual pending loan back to Colombian side Millionarios, which, like Nacional, is due to play in the Copa Libertadores. When the World Cup is within reach, maybe you listen.
Few can begrudge Valdes his move, particularly since the Union already have his replacement, but the Colombian league is not exactly a step up from MLS, if that’s where he’s going. Nacional in Uruguay makes more sense because of its spot in the Copa Libertadores, but the Uruguayan domestic league isn’t exactly the level of Brazil or Argentina either.
His departure would leave Roger Torres as the last remaining central American player acquired by ousted Union scouting director Diego Gutierrez. Don’t be surprised if Torres goes too, as the Union seemingly purge from their payroll every central American and Colombian player contract touched by Gutierrez.
When Valdes leaves, he’ll join his new team and quietly go on with his career, and so will the Union and their fans. No drama. Life will go on.
In some ways, it may undersell a talented, valuable player who has been just as good as the fan favorites whose departures were dramatically mourned by Union fans. Maybe the language barrier prevented the reserved, thoughtful Valdes from becoming as beloved as Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Califf. Maybe he joined the team a year too late.
Or maybe, it’s just progress.