Zarek Valentin makes good on Porter’s pledges; seizes opportunity in starting line-up

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Portland Timbers defender Zarek Valentin lifts the trophy slab against the LA Galaxy in 2016.

Another Chivas USA full back makes a case to find a home along the Timbers back line.

by Matt Hoffman (@mhoff)

When laying the foundation for the 2017 team, Portland Timbers coach Caleb Porter knew one of the core was to improve the Timbers depth. Porter’s plan was to acquire “starter caliber depth from positions 12 to 18.” The idea of depth wasn’t just to have fixes for when players went down. The idea was that the level of talent will push each player to raise their individual games on the training field and, ultimately, to the games themselves.

With the recent emergence of Zarek Valentin playing consecutive matches at right back, it is clear Porter, never one to mince words in the first place, was not fooling around.

When choosing a matchday XI, you need to factor in the overall form of the players, Porter said in mid-week press conference adding, “You see them for 90 minutes, I see them for five days of training plus those 90 minutes.”

The impression Porter got: Valentin was so good at training in the past few weeks, he earned the starting gig against Seattle.

You probably already follow Valentin on Twitter. Good.

A right back by nature, Valentin’s only starts as a Timber had been at left back until Vytas arrived on the scene late last year. Valentin was drafted as a right back and the former Arkon Zip left early as a Generation adidas draft pick. Despite his relative inexperience, Chivas USA coach Robin Fraser was so dependent on Valentin that Valentin became one of the few players to “graduate” from the Generation adidas program after only their rookie season.

Forced to choose between a large contract that now counted against the salary cap, Chivas USA left Valentin unprotected in the following expansion draft where he was selected by Montreal. Valentin played overseas in Norway, before coming back to play under Porter in 2016.

With his assist to Diego Valeri in the 49th minute of Friday’s match, the Timbers had the first lead in a match since April en route to a 2-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes to snap the Timbers five-game winless streak.

“When Zarek has the ball, I always look to him because he has a great right foot,” Valeri stated after the match. He’s like a midfielder.”

While Valentin helped the Timbers get on the scoreboard, he also made a key tackle of Tommy Thompson in the box to help preserve the clean sheet. When asked about it following the match, Valentin would say, “I’m just happy I was able to get in front of it and block it.”

San Jose striker Chris Wondolowski thought Valentin may have prevented the Earthquake’s best chance of stealing a point on the road, saying “I think Tommy [Thompson] had a good chance [but]Valentin made a great block.”

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