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Season Review: Carlos Valdes

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Editor’s note: At the end of the 2010 season, we posted a series of season reviews of every Philadelphia Union player. Over the next several weeks PSP continues with a review of the 2011 season.

While much has been said about the arrival of Faryd Mondragon and its effect on the stability of the Union’s defense, the arrival of Carlos Valdes has been just important. The speedy, powerful center back became a perfect compliment to Danny Califf and Brian Carroll to solidify the middle of the pitch.

With the Union attempting to play a “fluid system” and looking to play through the midfield, a center back that can maintain possession and make smart passes out of the back is an essential element. And it was an element that was missing from the 2010 Union. Danny Califf is a ball winner, a great tackler and a strong aerial player, but a great passer of the ball he is not. Valdes provided a calmness on the ball and the ability to pick out a forward pass that no other Union center back has shown.

Consistent throughout the season, Valdes had momentary lapses but very few matches where he could be singled out for subpar play. If anything, the center back could be blamed for trying to do much, particularly in matches where the Union were forced to chase the game. While there has certainty been a trend in world football of center backs with the ability to attack in open play, Valdes didn’t seem to content to just pick his spots, and at times found himself trying to take on opposition midfielders in poor spots on the field.

But few Union fans will have too many complaints about a great first season for the young Colombian. He has taken hold of a position that plagued the Union back line for much of their inaugural season. He has formed a dynamic partnership with Danny Califf that plays to the strengths of both players. And Valdes has shown himself to be the hard-nosed, gritty player that Philadelphians love to love.

High Point

It’s hard to pinpoint a particular moment for Valdes. His only goal came in the 3–0 win in New England but his best stuff appeared in some big games late in the season, including strong shifts in important wins against Columbus and DC. As a duo, Danny Califf and Carlos Valdes put in a big time performance in a huge match in Seattle. Pat Noonan and Michael Fucito could not get a sniff of the ball anywhere near Zach MacMath’s net with both center backs bossing the box and the middle of the pitch. Crosses, long balls over the top, crafty through balls from midfielders, all were all dealt with in an all too easy manner.

Low Point

No one on the back line played well for the first 45 minutes of the 4–4 draw against the Revolution. But Valdes just could not seem to get a touch right at all. A poor clearance led straight to one early New England goal, while another Revolution goal was headed in with the center back caught flat footed.


Strong in the air. A good distributor of the ball. Magnificent closing/recovering speed. He also compliments the rest of his back line well. When Sheanon Williams goes forward, Valdes fills in on the right side. While Danny Califf’s major role is to win the physical battles and the ball, Valdes settles the play and looks for smart passes out of the back.


His scoring ability from set pieces leaves much to be desired. On a team with probably the shortest midfield in the league, the center backs have to take some responsibility for being dangerous on set plays. While Valdes often found himself making good runs to recieve the ball in the box, his ability to get his headers on goal is disappointing. Valdes also has the tendency to try to do too much with the ball when the Union have to play from behind. Too often he’ll meander up the field, making 60 yards run that don’t lead to anything but the center back being out of position.


Valdes has cemented his spot in the Union defense after just one year with the club. He shows a great understanding with his fellow defenders, his goalkeeper and his defensive midfield. He also proved to be extremely versatile, featuring in 34 of the Union’s 36 games. We can hope to see more of the same from Valdes in 2012. And if the center back can keep up his consistent form, the biggest thing Union fans will have to worry about is if a European club comes calling.

*Stat chart legend:
POS: Position; GP: Games Played; GS: Games Started; MINS: Minutes; PA: Passes Attempted; PC: Passes Completed; P%: Passing Accuracy Percentage; SHTS: Shots Faced; SV: Saves; GA: Goals Allowed; GAA: Goals Allowed Average; PKG/A: Penalty Goals/Attempted; W; Wins; L: Losses; T: Ties; ShO: Shutouts; W%: Win Percentage; SV%: Save Percentage; FC: Fouls Committed; FS: Fouls Suffered; YC: Yellow Cards; RC: Red Cards


  1. My 2010 Union MVP.

  2. Mine too. Valdes seems to garner more notice and acclaim outside the Philly area than within. But i find myself happily watching him all game long. Great find by Nowak and co.

    • Valdes was sort of a hidden gem during the first half of the season. I know we at PSP raved and raved about him very early. By the time people outside the region caught on, Valdes had suffered that dip in form that he had, and outsiders were praising him for play that was good but not as brilliant as the season’s opening stretch. He closed the season with a return to top form.

  3. Valdes is great, but he remains awful in the air. Getting better on set pieces (going both ways) is critical.

    • If you mean scoring whilst in the air, certainly.
      On set pieces Valdes, along with every other Union player, needs to improve.
      However, I submit Valdes is the Union player most skilled at winning balls in the air defensively. He has composure, awareness, and skill to direct the nodded ball to a teammate, in order to complete the defensive clearance.

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