Diego Valeri Helps Lead the Portland Timbers Into the MLS is Back Tournament Semifinals

Diego Valeri is celebrating a major win…

The 34-year-old Argentine footballer and Andy Polo each scored after entering the match as substitutes, helping lead the Portland Timbers to a 3-1 win over New York City FC in the last MLS is Back tournament quarterfinal near Orlando on Saturday night.

Diego Valeri

Sebastian Blanco also scored and had an assist for the Timbers, who haven’t conceded a non-penalty-kick goal in either of their games in the knockout phase.

Portland will face the Philadelphia Union in a semifinal on Wednesday night, after Philadelphia defeated Sporting Kansas City 3-1 on Thursday. The winner will advance to the August 11 final against either Orlando or Minnesota.

Jesus Medina scored a first-half penalty kick to give NYCFC an early lead. New York exits the tournament having lost three of its five matches, after forcing Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark into just two saves.

Valeri entered at halftime and broke a 1-all tie 20 minutes later. He controlled a diagonal pass into the penalty area, played a quick square ball to Jaroslaw Niezgoda, ran onto Niezgoda’s return pass and struck a first-time shot past Sean Johnson.

Polo required only a minute after his 75th-minute entrance to put the game out of reach. With several options to play a pass during an attack, Polo instead opted for a ferocious 25-yard curling shot from the left side that skimmed off a diving Johnson’s fingertips on its way inside the far post.

Before halftime, New York led for 16 minutes until Blanco struck an opportunistic equalizer, when Maxime Chanot deflected Jose Villafana‘s low cross from the left. Blanco collected the half-clearance about 15 yards from goal, then curled a right-footed shot beyond Johnson’s dive and inside the right post.

Medina opened the scoring in the 27th minute after drawing the penalty kick himself, when he went to the ground after tangling with Portland defender Larrys Mabiala.

Robert Sibiga ruled a foul and awarded the kick, and Medina stepped up and drove a left-footed shot to the left of Clark, who had guessed to his right.

Erick Torres Signs with Atlanta United

Erick Cubo Torres is headed to The Big Peach

The 27-year-old Mexican professional footballer has signed with Atlanta United after placing Josef Martinez on the season-ending injury list.

Erick "Cubo" Torres

Martinez, the 2018 Major League Soccer MVP, tore the ACL in his right knee in Atlanta’s season-opening 2-1 win over Nashville SC on February 29. He underwent surgery on March 18.

By being placed on the season-ending injury list, Martinez won’t be able to play in any MLS competitions for the remainder of the 2020 season. Per MLS roster rules, the Martinez move allowed Atlanta to obtain roster relief in the form of an open roster spot, as well as salary budget relief up to $250,000 to sign a replacement.

Atlanta has struggled in Martinez’s absence, failing to score a single goal while losing all three games at the MLS is Back tournament. That run of results led to the team parting ways with manager Frank de Boer on July 24.

“Josef’s rehab is progressing well and is going to plan; however, it was important for us to make this move as it gives us roster relief and flexibility for the rest of the 2020 season,” Atlanta United Vice President and Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra said. “We will miss his ability and leadership on the field this season, but we look forward to having him back at the start of preseason next year.”

In Martinez’s place, the Five Stripes acquired Torres, who was out of contract after spending the last two years with Liga MX side CD Tijuana. Having played previously with two other MLS teams — the now-defunct Chivas USA and the Houston Dynamo — Torres is familiar with the league, and has the added benefit of holding a green card, meaning he will count as a domestic player.

“‘Cubo’ is a natural goal-scoring forward who will bolster our frontline and we’re pleased to add a player of his quality to the team,” Bocanegra said. “He has consistently shown his finishing abilities in MLS, Liga MX and on the international stage, and we expect him to immediately contribute to the second half of our season.”

Torres was at one point considered an up-and-coming star in Mexico, breaking in with Guadalajara as a 17-year-old in 2010. He was loaned to Chivas USA in 2013, scoring 23 goals in 51 league and cup appearances over the next two seasons.

Following Chivas USA’s folding after the 2014 season, MLS purchased Torres’ contract, making him a Designated Player. He eventually landed in Houston, though his form was uneven during his tenure there. He went 23 league and cup appearances without scoring and was twice loaned to Guadalajara and Cruz Azul during that time.

Torres bounced back in 2017, scoring 14 goals in 31 league and playoff appearances, five of which came from the penalty spot. Torres returned to Mexico in 2018 with Pumas and later Tijuana, but has struggled to find success since. Over the last two years, he has scored nine goals in 45 league and cup appearances. At the international level, Torres scored one goal in seven appearances for Mexico.