Sport: Soccer, Portland Timbers
Hometown: Lanus, Argentina
photo by Craig Mitchelldyer
You were born and lived most of your life in Argentina. Is living in Oregon a totally different experience?
No, not so different, actually. For me, it’s one of the nicest places I’ve lived …It’s amazing. Some Portland neighborhoods are very similar to Buenos Aires—mostly in the North Portland area, the other side of the river. You have the same sort of hills … It makes me feel good, you know?
You were either first or second in MLS in assists the past two seasons, but you’ve also scored twenty-one goals during that same timespan. Can we call you a natural scorer?
I’m not a natural. I’m more of a system player. I want to assist, create more than score. But sometimes, goals happen. It’s a good accident. I like to be smart, really think the game; think about my teammates. But it’s good—the team needs scoring, too.
You’ve already been Newcomer of the Year in 2013 and an All-Star in 2014. What’s next for Diego Valeri?
I want to be a champ, earn a trophy for this club. We have that hurt in Argentina—everyone wants to be a champion. This team is very hungry. We have a very good mentality. We have everything to do it. We just need time, and always need luck. If we work hard, build a good team, I think it’s possible. It’s real, you know? I’m not saying something strange here.
You suffered a tear to your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in last year’s season finale. Was it the hardest thing you’ve ever endured?
I’ve had a lot of injuries in my career, but it made me strong. It’s a strange feeling because this is my third year, and I’ve had two big injuries. I’ve basically been injured every year. One of my goals is to get healthy and stay healthy. The worst thing is to be injured.
Do you think this country, beyond pockets such as in the Pacific Northwest, has truly embraced soccer?
The people who love it know—you just need time. You have a lot of games here. This is a country with a lot of sports, and this is kind of a new sport. It’s just going to take some time, but soccer will be one of the most important sports in this country.
Thanks to social media, the soccer world has been exposed to your precocious daughter, Constanza, who can be spotted on the field at Providence Park following home games, often in your arms. Is she a handful?
Yes. She’s 6. I don’t have the words to explain. She’s amazing. She knows everything. She’s a princess, she’s a queen. She’s a soccer player. She’s a singer. She’s a doctor. She’s everything. It’s an amazing age—and she can do everything.