CHESTER, Pa. -- The Union have just received some World Cup-caliber reinforcement.
After a messy back-and-forth with San Lorenzo of Argentina’s Primera Division, and fighting through international transfer uncertainty, the Union’s persistence paid off as they have re-acquired Colombian center back and former MLS All-Star, Carlos Valdes.
“When I left Philly, I was always thinking to come back one day,” Valdes said. “I think this is my second family and 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 starting thinking again about coming back to Philadelphia.”
Although the terms of the deal were not fully disclosed, Valdes signed a long-term deal with the Union and will receive a raise. But not enough to consider the Colombian a “designated player.”
“The loan deal was a bit complex and I think that’s why you saw it take the time that it did,” said Union technical director Chris Albright. “But we wanted to make sure that Carlos was happy in the end with a new deal that rewards him for being the player that he is.”
Valdes, 29, is fresh off a stint with the Colombian national team at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where he made one appearance. The impressive Colombian squad made it to the quarterfinals before being defeated by the hosts.
“For me, it has been one of the most beautiful things ever in my life,” he said. “I cannot say how good it was being in Brazil, living every game, living every day, but it’s something unbelievable. I will remember all my life being in the World Cup.”
But the move back to Philly wasn’t easy. According to media out of South America, San Lorenzo was rumored to owe the Valdes money -- something Union interim manager Jim Curtin eluded to in a recent press conference, when he mentioned the steady pay of MLS as a plus mark for the young league in negotiations.
“It was very frustrating for Carlos, very frustrating for us, I’m sure for San Lorenzo in some respects frustrating as well,” said Union CEO and operating partner Nick Sakiewicz. “The folks at the league did a great job in figuring this out to make him happy.”
But while San Lorenzo wavered, the Union pushed forward, eventually landing their target and bringing him back from loan. An MLS all-star in 2012, Valdes left the Union after that season to pursue a national team call-up and play closer to home.
He played in 32 games with Santa Fe and registered seven games with San Lorenzo.
The addition is a welcome one for the Union, who have been hampered by inconsistent defending all season but are pushing for a playoff position. In a move to bring athleticism to the Union defense, Curtin has been forced to use reluctant midfielder Maurice Edu on defense, along with talented but slow center back, Ethan White.
“We know he’s grown a ton as a player with that experience, and leadership that he’ll bring to our locker room is invaluable,” Curtin said. “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.”
The Union are set to face Jack McInerney and the Montreal Impact on Saturday at PPL Park.