On Monday, Philadelphia Union announced that former captain Carlos Valdes has returned after his year-and-a-half loan spell in South America. He played for Colombian outfit Sante Fe and Argentina side San Lorenzo during his time away.
The 29-year-old left MLS in order to boost his chances of representing Colombia at the 2014 World Cup. His performances in Colombia and Argentina got him a spot in Colombia’s squad and he played once in Brazil.
“When I left Philly, I always was thinking to come back one day because I think this is my second family,” Valdés said. “I love the fans. I love the team. I love the people in Philadelphia. I love my teammates. As soon as the World Cup finished, I was thinking again about coming back to Philadelphia.”
Now that he’s back in MLS, Union’s ex-captain faces tense competition for a center back position.
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Since Jim Curtin became the interim manager, Ethan White and Maurice Edu have been the duo protecting Zac MacMath’s goal, and they have impressed their new boss, especially White.
After a 3-1 victory against New York Red Bulls, Cutin said, “Ethan was a beast again. That’s two games in a row. He’s accepted the challenge, embraced it and did extremely well. What I’ve been most happy with is his passing.
“He wins the battles. He’s an incredible athlete. He’ll win everything in the air. He’ll win the individual duals one-on-one. But his long-range passing that sets up the attack right now for us has been a very, very pleasant surprise, to be honest.”
Valdes will also have to compete against 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year Austin Berry. The former Chicago Fire center back has struggled with injuries and has fallen out of favor in Philadelphia. He has only appeared six times this season.
Despite the obstacles standing his way, Valdes will most definitely be a starter. He’s just that good.
During his two seasons in Philadelphia, the Colombian international started every game he played. His solid showing earned him a spot in the 2012 MLS All-Star team.
Now, it’s up to Curtin to figure out how he’s going to build his defense around Valdes.
The easy solution is to replace White with Valdes. However, that might not happen because Curtin seems to really like what White brings to the team.
If the young manager elects to keep White in the starting lineup that means Edu will have to return to his preferred defensive midfield position. The 28-year-old has put in good shifts as a center back, but he’s stated that he’s still a midfielder.
With Edu back in midfield, Amobi Okugo might be relegated to the bench.
Although Okugo has impressed in the middle, the more experienced Edu is better in that position. The former Rangers midfielder is better with the ball at his feet, exceptional at reading the game and is capable of instigating an attack.
There is also the possibility that Okugo could regain his center back spot and play alongside his 2012 partner.
No matter what happens, Valdes return only makes Philadelphia better. His leadership and expertise should serve the Union well as they try to secure a playoff spot.
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