Featured / MLS / Union

The quiet departure of Carlos Valdes

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Carlos Valdes owns this silence.

The reasons for his impending departure from Philadelphia Union remain somewhat of a mystery, but the fact that he is leaving seems rather clear.

Valdes will be the third Philadelphia Union captain to depart the team in three years. This time, there won’t be any hand-wringing. No one will call for the manager to be fired. There will be no going away party at some Philadelphia-area pub. He will not say he wishes he could stay. The Union have already acquired his replacement in Jeff Parke.

Few know exactly why.

As Valdes tweeted (in Spanish) on Monday, choosing a quote sometimes attributed to William Shakespeare, “It is better to own your silence … than to be a slave to your words!” He has succeeded. Valdes quietly left town for Latin America after the MLS season ended and, since then, has told a Spanish-language television station that his prospective loan would initially be for six months. And that’s the key word: “inicialmente.” A loan is just his path to finality.

The Union have confirmed nothing, but of course, we’ve been here before. The league office is cagey about revealing anything on transactions before they are finalized, and there are all sorts of ways to craft statements to the press. “We have not given permission for Carlos to train with Santa Fe or any other club in the off-season,” a Union spokesperson told PSP last week. “We also have yet to be contacted by any club regarding a loan for Carlos.” But surely Valdes or his agent has contacted the Union about a loan, since he was obviously perfectly willing to contact the Spanish-speaking world about it via TV and radio.

So he’s going, going, gone.

It could be Santa Fe in Colombia. It could be Nacional in Uruguay. It could even be Boca Juniors. It’s not Philadelphia, which is all that matters.

Valdes also tweeted this image on December 27. It sums up his situation rather nicely.

If you’re looking for a reason why he’s leaving, an answer may be the 2014 World Cup.

Valdes is a good but not great player, a key cog in any back line that deploys him but not a star in his own right. He is alternately underappreciated and overrated but undoubtedly one of the Union’s best and most reliable players, exactly the kind of player every team needs.

He is also a stalwart defender good enough to start for the Colombian national team, which looks headed for its first World Cup since 1998. For a soccer-mad country like Colombia that has never gotten past the shadow of the two Escobars, this is huge. It could be the high point of a player’s career.

The Colombian national team coach, Jose Pekerman, seems to want Valdes playing in South America. A similar motivation may be behind Fredy Montero’s unusual pending loan back to Colombian side Millionarios, which, like Nacional, is due to play in the Copa Libertadores. When the World Cup is within reach, maybe you listen.

Few can begrudge Valdes his move, particularly since the Union already have his replacement, but the Colombian league is not exactly a step up from MLS, if that’s where he’s going. Nacional in Uruguay makes more sense because of its spot in the Copa Libertadores, but the Uruguayan domestic league isn’t exactly the level of Brazil or Argentina either.

His departure would leave Roger Torres as the last remaining central American player acquired by ousted Union scouting director Diego Gutierrez. Don’t be surprised if Torres goes too, as the Union seemingly purge from their payroll every central American and Colombian player contract touched by Gutierrez.

When Valdes leaves, he’ll join his new team and quietly go on with his career, and so will the Union and their fans. No drama. Life will go on.

In some ways, it may undersell a talented, valuable player who has been just as good as the fan favorites whose departures were dramatically mourned by Union fans. Maybe the language barrier prevented the reserved, thoughtful Valdes from becoming as beloved as Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Califf. Maybe he joined the team a year too late.

Or maybe, it’s just progress.


  1. James "4-3-3" Forever says:

    I would also put some of this on the MLS transfer process and how the MLS handles these kinds of things as well.
    It’s not surprising that in a league that doesn’t even release terms of a contract that a transfer it more quiet than not.
    I’m sure it’s a big difference than the transfer season in England.

  2. I miss him already. 🙁

  3. DarthLos117 says:


  4. ditto James

  5. sigh

  6. Who knew Carlos was a philosopher? The two tweets from him in this article are deep – way deep man…
    His loyalty, work ethic and dedication will be missed (his untimely runs up the center of pitch will not).

  7. I am really going to miss him. He showed so much improvement while he was here. I think I am going to miss him more than Califf.

  8. It’s the overall tone of the ‘purge’ that worries me more than the individual loss of Valdes. He must have been pretty lonely by the end of the season. While most of Gutierrez’s acquisitions reek of incompetence at best and corruption at worst, the ethnic make-up of the remaining roster could give one pause. Ansaldi had better act fast before the impression gets out that the Union have a “Latinos need not apply” sign on their locker room door.

    • Oh, come on. The Farfans would like a word with you.

      Valdes is not leaving as part of a purge. He’s leaving because he’s too good for MLS, and can make more money, with better national team and European prospects elsewhere.

      • Too good for the MLS? He’s good, but he wasn’t the class of the league. Moving to Uraguay or Colombia probably will not lead to a much, if any, higher salary. I feel that it will allow the NT coach easier ability to make evaluations for the 2014 WC. The more looks he can get, the better his chances of making the team.

      • Hmmm. Well, I can’t speak to the salaries at those clubs. In any event, I think a club regularly in the Libertadores can probably afford a higher wage.

        The “too good for MLS” came off a little too curt, I admit. I happen to love MLS, and think it’s underrated elsewhere, even if overrated by some of its fans. But there’s still a stigma, I think, and if he’s going to make a jump to a top league (read: fame, money, challenge, and not necessarily in that order), the Libertadores and national team are the best way to show his stuff. That he’d be making at least a similar salary closer to home in a Spanish-speaking country probably doesn’t hurt either, although I’m obviously speculating all over the place here.

      • I know it’s not part of a purge, and I get the reasons he’s leaving. I just worry what it would look like to an outsider who doesn’t know the details, and just sees a new coach coming in and jettisoning Perlaza, Pajoy, Gomez, Lopez and now Valdes.

      • It would have to be a very casual outsider eager to find bias. I don’t think any players would be put off by it, but who knows? Anyone who looked into it would see that for the bulk of these guys, they weren’t good enough for what they were paid.

  9. MikeRSoccer says:

    If we ever needed confirmation of the rumors that Nowak and Gut illegally profited off of South American transfers…this would be it. I would use a Punic Wars analogy here to describe the Union’s veritable salting of the earth of the Nowak era signings. Valdés is going because both parties want an end to the relationship, but for different reasons. Torres is as good as gone I think and if any of you have read the recent pieces on mlssoccer, which conveniently forget that Soumare even exists, I wouldn’t put money on him staying either. In any other national sport in America the background story of Nowak’s departure, lawsuit, rumors and Orozco’s comments would be enough to merit their own ESPN station.

    During the Nowak regime we all begged for transparency and since the Hackworth/Sakiewicz reconquista we have received it, but I for one do not want this transparency back-dated to the Nowak era. The more I hear, the less I want to know about what happened in the gulag he ran down there. The truth would be a PR disaster for a team that doesn’t need another one.

  10. It’s really a shame, he is good and good for th team, not to mention a good person from what I saw. I always say certain players fit with certain cities, and although he wasn’t the most vocal he definitely fit in Philly. In a city that values certain things in its athletes I hope no one is foolish enough to say good bye without thanking him first.

  11. WilkersonMcLaser says:

    A pity, really. Valdes is a favorite of mine and I hoped he would make a home here. But I don’t think the fans’ lack of reaction has to do with a deficit of affection, but that Valdes himself seems to be interested in moving on and the Union have been smart enough to build some redundancy with Parke’s acquisition and Okugo’s versatility.
    All that said, I do think the manic Bogota North-approach to roster building under the previous regime was a mistake. There’s a lot of opportunities to mine in South America, but I wish we were a little more diligent about tapping stabler, if under-appreciated in MLS, veins of talent in East Asia (it’s shocking how little attention MLS has paid to the quality pipelines in Japan and Korea) and Central Eurasia (Turkey, Ukraine, Caucasus). Lot of bargains out there.

  12. torres is from south america (Colombia) not central america.

    sucks that valdez is leaving. but i wish him the best. he deserves to play in a better league since he’s gotten called up to the national team.

    • “Central America” is sometimes described as including Colombia, but I edited the post at 12:46 nonetheless for clarity’s sake, in the (failed) hopes of precluding a comment like that. If you reload the page, you’ll see the change. The point is that these signings largely came from the neighboring countries of Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica.

  13. this what the union need to do in order…

    1. get rid of freddy adu
    2. get an attacking midfielder
    3. get a midfield winger
    4. get a left back
    5. get a veteran goalie

    if we do at least the first 3 we’ll make the playoffs.

    • If you do lose Valdes, you might want to add a sixth:

      6. get CB depth

    • I would say if we get a CAM and a LB we have 2 good wingers, they happen to be brothers, and if you want to throw Cruz in( I’m not debating here about that) then we have three god wingers, and two backs that can fly behind them. But I think we need CB depth( maybe draft although I hat to bring in more young guys) and a vet GK to help Macmath during rough stretches.

  14. santas grotto says:

    I am disappointed to see him go. Good solid central defenders are worth their weight in gold and hard to come by. On another note, I feel some responsibility. Two years ago I used my loyalty points to select a player jersey, I chose LeToux. We all know what happened there. This year, you guessed it, I chose Valdes. Sorry ’bout that. Next year I’ll pick Adu.

    • Funny! My son shares your luck…We got him a Mondragon jersey… he leaves…bought himself a Mwanga jersey…he gets traided two weeks later! I joked with a friend that he needed a Nowak jersey. When Nowak got canned that guy called me to see if my son got a Nowak jersey. Going to miss Cralos. Wish him well whereever he lands!

  15. If Valdes is leaving, I think a full sale is preferable to a loan. The Union would only get a cut of the transfer fee, but even a few hundred thousand in allocation is enough to make a move or two to improve other areas of the pitch.

    If this leaves Parke and Soumare as our assumed starting CB tandem, our backline height problem just improved dramatically.

  16. Its unfortunate that Valdez is leaving. He was arguably the best player last season. Its a shame that he feels that he needs to leave in order to stay on his national team radar. However, its also a shame that he is leaving a team that put him on that radar in the first place.

  17. I wish Carlos the best and I hope that 2014 does not find Colombia in the same world cup group with the US

  18. The question was answered in the article- its because of the 2014 World Cup.

    Pekerman wants his guys playing in South America. So he should play in South America.

    I would never ever begrudge a guy making a club move that would increase his chances of playing in the World Cup. Plus, we are actually *gasp* prepared for something in advance!

    I feel like this is a rare situation for the Union where everyone can win.

    • It’ll be nice when one day MLS is respected by the international community. It seems as if Pekerman doesn’t rate the league.

      If this is what Carlos has to do to make a World Cup roster, then so be it. I don’t like it, but these are the growing pains associated with a young league.

      • I dont think its about him rating the league or not. I think its more about him being able to get a hold and have a team meeting/practice easily if all his guys are close to him and or playing with or against fellow countrymen. looks like they are trying to get every advantage they can going into this WC which seems like good tactics to me.

      • Most of the regular Colombian starters play in Europe. (i.e., Falcao, ) Only 3 of the 24 called in for the last friendly – against Brazil, where they called in almost every potnetial starter — play in the Colombian league. Mondragon was one those 3. It is not like they have phone chain and call everyone to come together for a pick-up game. Sante Fe has had ONE (i.e., the same as the Union) player called up in the last 12 months – a 23 YO GK.

  19. The person who wrote this is not aware that the colombian league is way better than the mls( cant even call this league football) is soccer. Colombia. League its the 20th best league in the world while mls is in the 39th place .mls may have a better pay but thats it. This league is good for retiring playets not for players in formation.

    • Arnando, I get it your a fan of the Colombian league, maybe even Colombian…but c’mon man, I dont think your gonna convince any of us that the Colombian league is leaps and bounds better than the MLS.
      We are on this site because the Union is OUR team and they play in OUR league. While our league isnt yet a top world league…it will be, sooner rather than later and I’m stoked to be a part and fan of this league. You should jump on board instead of bash it.
      I suspect Valdez and Montero are leaving the MLS not because they believe that the Colombian league is better but rather because of their desire to represent their country and family in the world cup. I believe the Colombian coach has made that a requirement to represent Colombia I respect their choice and admire their patriotism but not the coaches rationale. Let’s not forget that Valdes and Montero’s performances in the MLS put them on the national team radar in the first place.
      Also, what does Blatter know. We all know he is the most corrupt and closeminded Fifa president who will only praise and support leagues and commissioners that support his own ill dogmatic agenda. Blatter will bash the MLS until we adopt an international schedule…it will never matter to Blatter how the numbers actually show that the MLS is doing amazingly well nor that the MLS’s outlook is amazing.
      Hope to Cya at PPL!

  20. Speaking of quiet things. I remember reading that Keon had not responded to national team inquires and that no one was sure where he was? Has anyone heard anything else about this?

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