It was like he never left.
Carlos Valdes returned to the Philadelphia Union after a 19-month absence and immediately bonded with his teammates.
The 29-year-old centerback, a former MLS All-Star who competed for Colombia in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, re-joined the Union on a multi-year contract.
And he couldn’t be more ecstatic.
“When I left Philly, I always was thinking to come back one day because I think this is my second family,” Valdes said at a press conference Monday afternoon at PPL Park. “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.”
Valdes, who will be available for selection on Saturday against the Montreal Impact, helped Colombia advance to the quarterfinals of the World Cup for the first time in its history. Colombia lost to Brazil, 2-1, in the quarterfinals.
The Union will reap the benefits of having Valdes back on their club.
Just ask interim manager Jim Curtin.
“Any time you can add a central defender that is a Best XI-type central defender, it’s very exciting for the club,” Curtin said. “Carlos has a great relationship with the guys. … We know he’s grown a ton as a player with that experience (at the World Cup), and the leadership that he’ll bring to our locker room is invaluable. Again, he’s a guy that can slide right in and become a top center back in our league right off the bat and give us a push down the stretch here.”
Since Valdes has thrived in MLS before, he understands what’s at stake. He won’t be fazed by anything.
“The good thing is that it’s a seamless transition,” Curtin said. “He knows what it looks like in Houston when it’s 120 degrees and you have to fly back to Philadelphia and you’re on the road again to Dallas. All the challenges in the league, it’s very smooth for him because he’s familiar with not only the locker room but also the way the league works and the competitive nature of the league where every game is kind of like a playoff game.”
The additions of Algerian World Cup standout goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi and Valdes signal that the Union are intent on making a huge push for the postseason.
“We’re not done,” Union CEO & Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz said. “We’re an ambitious club. We want to win. We want to lift trophies. If anyone thinks that we’re going to kick our feet up on the table and relax, certainly not for the rest of this year, but long-term, we want more. We want to bring the very best players here, and we want to win a championship. As executives, as players, as an organization, we expect to do that. So we’re not done.”
Neither is Valdes.
He’s used to having a tremendous amount of success and he’ll bring that talent and leadership back to the Union.
“I have great memories in the Philadelphia locker room,” Valdes said. “But I want to start living a new experience, so I think this is another chapter of my life.”
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Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at firstname.lastname@example.org