Union welcomes back Valdes

Posted: August 06, 2014

AS CEO Nick Sakiewicz and interim manager Jim Curtin sat down in front of the media at PPL Park yesterday, Carlos Valdes paced the room with a wide beam, using both hands to casually slick back his hair.

His excitement about returning to the Union was tangible, from the way he strutted to the microphone to his body language as he answered questions.

Before answering his first question, he had this to say:

"First I want to apologize for my English," Valdes said, laughing, while adjusting his white Union golf shirt. "I'm very happy to be back and I want to say thanks to Nick for everything you have done to me and the same to Jim and all the guys who are helping me out and to reach my dream of playing in the World Cup.

"I was always thinking to come back one day. I love the fans, I love the team, I love the people in Philadelphia. As soon as the World Cup finished, I was thinking of coming back."

Valdes, 29, played 65 games with the Union in 2011-12, but was on loan last season with Colombian club Independiente Santa Fe and most recently with Argentine side San Lorenzo.

The defender started and played the entire game in the World Cup when Colombia beat Japan, 4-1, in group play. The Union had publicly expressed interest in bringing back Valdes for the last month, but the process took longer than expected.

Furthermore, Valdes said he had been thinking about coming back to the Union since the end of the tournament in Brazil, a process that Curtin and Sakiewicz said took "four to five'' weeks to complete.

Curtin trusts that Valdes has developed impeccably since his last stint with the Union, especially considering his experiences in Brazil. He said Valdes "is a starter for the Philadelphia Union."

"He's grown a ton as a player with [World Cup] experience, and bringing that to our locker room is invaluable," Curtin said. "He's a guy that can slide right in and be a top center back in our league right away, right off the bat, and give us a push down the stretch. He knows every game is a playoff game and he's ready to go."

The 2012 MLS All-Star signed a new, multiyear contract that will replace the previous one he had with the squad.

It's unclear if Valdes will be prepared for a potential start against the Montreal Impact on Saturday, but he said he "thinks he'll be ready for this weekend."

But what was palpable was what the club is attempting to build this season as the team makes a push for the playoffs. With two World Cup players being added to the roster in a 6-day span, including Algerian goalkeeper Rais M'Bohli, Sakiewicz is trying to make it clear the Union wants to be in the hunt for a title.

And that's a message not only to the fans, but the rest of the league as well.

"We're not done, we are an ambitious club. We want to win. We want to lift trophies," Sakiewicz said. "If anyone thinks that we are going to kick our feet up on the table and relax, certainly not for the rest of this year. Long-term, we want more. We want to bring the very best players here and we want to win a championship, as executives, as players, and as an organization. We expect to do that."

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