The Portland Timbers added their first piece of the new year today, announcing the signing of defender Zarek Valentin. Although Valentin, 24, was added on a free transfer, the Timbers were forced to trade an international slot to the Montreal Impact for his MLS rights, which the Canadian side held following his departure from the league in 2013.
Valentin returns to MLS after three years in Norway playing for Bodø/Glimt where he made 55 appearances, despite being sidelined for most of the 2014 season with a torn hamstring. In 2015 Valentine made his mark on the side, playing 24 of of Bodø's 30 matches and chipping in a goal and three assists from his right back position.
While Valentin lined up primarily at the right fullback spot for Bodø, he is known as a versatile defender, having played center back for Montreal and Chivas USA during his time in MLS, as well as during his time under Caleb Porter at Akron. With it looking unlikely that Norberto Paparatto will return to the team in 2016 and Re-entry Draft pick Jermaine Taylor still unsigned, Valentin will provide some important depth for the Timbers on their back line.
According to Caleb Porter in the Timbers' press release (which you can find below), however, Valentin is capable of playing anywhere across the back four, including the elusive left back position. With Chris Klute as the only experienced left back on the Timbers' roster currently, Valentin might just be in competition for a starting spot if the Timbers' other defensive acquisition stumbles.
The Timbers' press release:
TIMBERS ACQUIRE DEFENDER ZAREK VALENTIN FROM MONTREAL IMPACT
PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers have acquired defender Zarek Valentin from the Montreal Impact in exchange for an international roster slot for the 2016 season, it was announced today. Per league and club policy, terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
“Zarek’s addition provides the club with a versatile defender whose experience in MLS and Norway complements an already strong group during a busy 2016 schedule that includes multiple competitions,” said Gavin Wilkinson, general manager of the Timbers.
Valentin, 24, made 55 league appearances with Norwegian side Bodø/Glimt across parts of three seasons from 2013-15, helping the side gain promotion to the Tippeligaen following the 2013 season. Originally loaned to Bodø/Glimt by the Impact in March 2013, Valentin joined the Norwegian club permanently ahead of the 2014 Tippeligaen season and helped the side remain in the top flight for back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2008-09.
“We are getting Zarek at an optimum time in his playing career,” said Caleb Porter, head coach of the Timbers. “He cut his teeth in MLS as a promising young defender and now his stint in Norway has matured his game even further. He is capable of playing any position in the back four and I expect him to earn a significant role in our squad.”
A Generation adidas player and the fourth overall pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft by Chivas USA, Valentin made 25 appearances (24 starts) during his rookie campaign. Following one season with Chivas USA, the versatile defender was selected by Montreal with the second overall pick in the 2011 MLS Expansion Draft. The Lancaster, Pa., native made 15 appearances (14 starts) during Montreal’s inaugural MLS season in 2012 before being loaned to Bodø/Glimt for the 2013 season.
A standout at the University of Akron for two seasons (2009, 2010), Valentin helped guide the Zips to back-to-back appearances in the NCAA College Cup, winning the program’s first NCAA National Championship in 2010. During and after his college career, Valentin was a fixture for the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team from 2009-11, appearing in more than 25 matches for the team. He also made appearances for the U.S. U-15, U-17, U-18 and U-23 National Team sides.
Pronunciation: ZAIR-ek valen-TEEN
Born: Aug. 6, 1991, in Lancaster, Pa.
Last Club: Bodø/Glimt (Norway)
Citizenship: United States
Acquired: Acquired Jan. 12, 2016, from Montreal Impact in exchange for 2016 international roster slot