It’s a game Carlos Valdes was ready to play a week ago.
It wasn’t too hard of a push to get the Union captain up for tonight’s international friendly between his native Colombia and world power Brazil at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. (7:15 p.m., ESPN Deportes). Valdes spent much of last week at PPL Park training on his own for the likes of containing a Brazil side that has scored 10 goals in its last two friendlies against Iraq and Japan.
For Valdes, this will be his fifth call-up of the season as he’s become a mainstay and starter for a Colombia squad with grand hopes of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil in 2014. With Valdes’ help, Colombia has earned 12 of 15 available points to sit second in its group behind Argentina in FIFA World Cup qualifying.
Expect a similar group, headlined by Atletico Madrid’s Radamel Falcao to challenge Brazil. Conversely, Brazil’s Neymar, Kaka and Oscar are expected to start and create an imposing offensive trio.
“We have pretty much the same roster, so we will not change the way we have been playing lately,” Valdes told reporters following a conditioning session in East Rutherford, Monday. “We always try to keep up with our level [when we play with our respective clubs], so we can have an opportunity with the national team…we will try to play and win the game, but when things do not go the way we expect, it is very important for us to stay calm.”
With an even head is how Valdes has always played for the Union since his arrival alongside former Union goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon in February 2011. The two link up again as Mondragon has made the Colombia’s roster under boss Jose Pekerman. However, this match looks to be one of the few remaining for Mondragon, whose next call-up will most likely be as goalkeeper coach for the Colombian federation.
In the case of Valdes, since joining the Colombia’s back line, the squad has allowed just one goal in five matches, a statistic that makes Valdes beam with national pride. He recently told philadelphiaunion.com “when I play for my country, it’s the highest honor and I do all that I can to make my country win and feel proud of what we have accomplished. I try to play that way wherever I go especially for the fans in Philadelphia who come to see you play no matter how the season goes.”
That passion was conveyed all season from the MLS All-Star. It was evident while he trained last week in frigid temperatures at PPL Park and will undoubtedly be showcased tonight when Colombia and Brazil kick off.
“It’s never a scrimmage when you wear the uniform of your national team, Valdes said. “It is always exciting to play against world class players. It is going to be a good challenge for me, so I am ready to give all for my country.”
Odds and endlines
Philadelphiaunion.com will be posting live updates from tonight's Colombia-Brail match via Twitter. For those making the trip, parking lots open at 2:30 p.m. and gates open at 5:45 and there is no New Jersey Transit bus or rail service to the stadium with the area still affected by Hurricane Sandy..Union midfielder Gabriel Gomez is also in action tonight when Panama hosts world champion Spain tonight in Panama City. Gomez is expected to start the match and will earn his 80th cap for his country against Spain…The U.S. national team will play Panama in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying next year on June 11 and in the final qualifier for both teams on Oct. 15. In the immediate, the Americans travel to Russia for a friendly set to kick off today at 10 a.m. (ESPN2).
Union intern Jorge Zapata contributed to this report
Contact Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Kerith on Twitter @sprtswtr.