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Diego Valeri named Goal's MLS Most Valuable Player

10:14 AM EST 11/27/17
Diego Valeri MLS Portland Timbers 08062017
The Portland Timbers star had his finest campaign of an already-stellar MLS career in 2017, earning Goal's top prize

Since he arrived in Major League Soccer in 2013, Diego Valeri has established himself as one of the league’s top attacking talents, and the heart and soul of the Portland Timbers.

In 2017, though, Valeri took his game to new heights. In a close race with several deserving candidates, the Argentine's stellar season has resulted in him being named Goal’s 2017 MLS MVP.

On a team with plenty of injury issues, Valeri’s durability took on added significance in 2017, as he reached the 30-appearance mark for the fourth time in his five seasons in Portland.

Of course, more than simply making the lineup, Valeri is our MVP for what he did with his time on the pitch for the Timbers this season. The Argentine put together his finest season in the league thus far, and one of the best campaigns an attacking midfielder has ever had in MLS.

Valeri notched 21 goals and 11 assists in 2017, becoming only the second player in league history to record 20 goals and 10 assists in a single season. That other player, Sebastian Giovinco, was named MLS MVP when he accomplished the feat in 2015.

It wasn’t just the quantity of the Argentine’s strikes though, with the quality of his output proving just as valuable. 

Seven of Valeri’s goals were game-winners, meaning nearly half of Portland’s 15 victories on the season were settled by the 31-year-old.

And as the season wound down, Valeri took his game into overdrive.

Starting on July 29, Valeri went on a scoring run the likes of which MLS had never before seen. When the Argentine's streak ended on Sept. 30, he had scored in nine consecutive games – the longest goal-scoring streak in MLS history.

Portland would go on to finish atop the Western Conference, winning the division on a tiebreaker over arch-rival Seattle.

With his team devastated by injuries down the stretch, Valeri showed up in a big way when it counted the most and led his team to a first-place finish. It was the kind of performance that MVP's are made of. 

Honorable mentions

2. David Villa: It was another brilliant campaign for the 2016 MLS MVP, who could very well become the first player to win the award in consecutive seasons. Villa finished second in the league with 22 goals and added nine assists to boot, a MLS-best total for a 35-year-old who shows very little sign of aging.

3. Sebastian Giovinco: The 30-year-old Italian actually had his worst statistical season in MLS due to injuries, but still managed to post 16 goals and six assists in helping Toronto FC to a dominant Supporters’ Shield-winning campaign. His six direct free-kick goals set a single-season MLS record.

4. Nemanja Nikolic: The Hungary international took MLS by storm in his first season in the league, winning the Golden Boot with 24 goals. Nikolic helped Chicago to a massive turnaround in 2017, going from back-to-back last-place finishes to a playoff berth.

5. Miguel Almiron: Enjoy the Paraguay international in MLS while you can, because Almiron's debut season with Atlanta United was so good that a European move is a matter of when, not if. The 23-year-old was at the heart of Atlanta's high-powered offense, scoring nine goals and adding 14 assists for the expansion side.