As each match intensifies, so does the defensive play of Union center back Carlos Valdes

Carlos Valdes looking for a return to form and MLS playoff picture

Carlos postmatch vs. Montreal

Photo Credit: 
Greg Carroccio

Carlos Valdes helped guide the Philadelphia Union to the MLS Cup playoffs in 2011.

One year later, Valdes earned a spot on the MLS All-Star team.

Fast forward two more years and the valuable defender is back in the league, trying to catapult the Union into the postseason for the second time in franchise history. In addition, he’ll be present for the U.S. Open Cup championship game against Seattle Sounders FC on Sept. 16 at PPL Park (7:30 p.m.; purchase tickets).

Adding a piece like Valdes this late in the season has been a huge boost for the Union in so many different ways.

“Carlos was excellent,” Union interim manager Jim Curtin said after his club's 2-1 win over the Montreal Impact on Aug. 9. “He was a beast back there, wins all his battles and doesn’t try to do too much. For his first game back we talked about just keeping it simple and he’s experienced enough. He won every battle and made a lot of big blocks that don’t show up on the stat sheets but also the little through balls that he cuts out now.

“I thought he was excellent and coming into a group is not an easy thing. He’s familiar with a lot of the guys but it’s been awhile, so for him to come into the group and play that well for us, I was very, very happy.”

Valdes received a standing ovation from the overflow sellout crowd and it pushed him to be more competitive than ever.

“I’m very, very thankful to all the people here who cheered for me,” said Valdes, who was a key player for Colombia in the FIFA World Cup. “It was a great day back for me and the people were all fantastic. I wish I could say, ‘Thank you’ to every single fan. They’re the greatest in the league. I’m so happy to be back here helping this club win.”

It wasn’t an easy transition.

It had been more than six weeks since Valdes played in a match that had deep meaning. In terms of fitness, he pushed through.

“My legs did feel a bit heavy at times,” Valdes said. “I knew I had to keep playing. Honestly, hearing the fans cheer for me was a big thing. It gave me the extra part that I maybe needed. I wanted to play so well for the fans because they have supported me so well.”

The schedule has been crazy for the Union since Valdes arrived. Following the win against Montreal, the Union traveled to Frisco, Tex., and defeated FC Dallas in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals. The club suffered a minor setback in its last game against Houston, being on the latter end of a 2-0 scoreline, but aspirations are once again rejuvenated.

For both Valdes and the Union alike.

“We’re all very excited to have Carlos here again,” said Union midfielder-forward Sebastien Le Toux, who like Valdes is on his second stint as a member of the Union. “I was very happy to come back and I know Carlos is, too. He’s a great player and we’re very happy to see him on the back line again.”

What are your thoughts on the return of Valdes? Leave a comment below.

Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at andy.jasner@yahoo.com