So it’s no secret that the Union are actively looking for pieces to solidify its backline.
On Tuesday, reports swirled that the Union has been in "close contact" with defender Carlos Valdes and the desire to have him rejoin the fray following Colombia’s run in the FIFA World Cup.
But it would have to be for the right terms.
“There’s nothing [to elaborate on] right now, we’ve spoken, it’s not a secret, and it’s nothing we’re going to hide from,” Curtin told reporters. “He’s a guy who’s played in a World Cup now, his stock is obviously rising and he’s an important piece we want to add. Still young at center back…he’s a guy that can really come in and solidify a back four and he’s a guy that we are definitely looking at.”
As it stands, Valdes’ contract with the Union is for the next 18 months, but his loan deal with Colombian side San Lorenzo does not last that long. The goal of the Union would be to bring Valdes back to the fray under a renegotiated deal that would benefit all parties involved, especially Valdes whose stock has climbed due to making Colombia’s 23-man roster for the World Cup and appearing for the Los Cafeteros in group play against Japan.
Valdes, 29, has expressed his appreciation for the Philadelphia fan base since leaving for his loan stint on social media and Curtin has made it one of his missions during his reign as interim manager to have Valdes return to Philadelphia.
However, this deal is very sensitive as the decision rests predominantly on Valdes and his decision to return to Major League Soccer under his current deal and restructure long term or remain on loan with San Lorenzo or possibly even another club for the duration of his current Union contract.
“That’s the tricky part, it could be as soon as the time is up with Colombia [in this World Cup] but there are a lot of variables,” Curtin continued. “There are obviously teams that are going to try and want him because he’s on the Colombian team but I think that we have made a very positive and aggressive offer to get him back here in terms of upping the ante down the road with him. We want him in a Philadelphia Union jersey long term.”
One thing for sure, Valdes would certainly bolster a defensive group dealing with injuries to key players and reshuffling of current players into new positions. Under Curtin, customary center back Amobi Okugo has been reassigned to defensive midfielder while Maurice Edu, who has had stints at central defense at other clubs and even for the U.S. men’s national team currently sits alongside Sheanon Williams in central defense. The versatility of both Edu and Okugo has proved right for Curtin, who has gotten out to a 3-0 start in all competitions since taking over for former manager John Hackworth.
“They’re very similar,” Curtin said of Okugo and Edu. I could put Amobi anywhere along the back line and Mo anywhere in the midfield, it’s one of those things where they get it, they’ve been through some wars now, they have some experience, it’s not so much where they play but the fact that you can put them anywhere and they feel comfortable on the ball, they can pass, they win a lot of battles, so they bring a lot to the table.”
But the technical staff knows while it’s effective, it’s also a short term solution. The longer – and seemingly correct one – would be to acquire a bona fide center defender.
And if there was anyone that fits that mold, it’s Valdes.
“That’s the huge one, there is no two-month window where he has to get adapted to what it’s like to have to go play in Dallas where it’s 105 degrees,” said Curtin. “He’s used to that, he knows what it takes to win, he’s a known commodity. There’s other center backs in the World Cup that have expressed a real interest to come [to Major League Soccer] are legit, starting center backs in the World Cup that would like to be here and those are guys we could pursue. However, Carlos knows the league; and a lot of our guys.”
“Plus, he’s our player, so it would be a quick transition.”
What are your thoughts on the possible return of Carlos Valdes? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org