Friday saw the Seattle Sounders add yet another piece to their already impressive (yet currently broke and sputtering) roster with the addition of Nelson Valdez and his decade-plus of Bundesliga experience. Seattle's newest Designated Player joins them from a struggling Eintracht Frankfurt side, and is coming off a cruciate ligament rupture that cost him the vast majority of last season. Luckily that isn't the end of Valdez' story, and there's no reason to think Valdez will be anything but highly productive in the coming years.
But rather than just the future, what Valdez does have is a long track record and consistent performance across three stints in the Bundesliga. Valdez joined Werder Bremen nearly 15 years ago, rising to prominence with a Thomas Schaaf led side that won their first Bundesliga trophy in over a decade in 2004.
Moving on from Bremen in 2006, Valdez joined Borussia Dortmund and was a critical player in a tumultuous time for the club (which was nearly relegated before the appointment of Jurgen Klopp.) Valdez spent two seasons under Klopp, who turned the German club into one of the modern European powerhouses. After shuttling around Europe for several years, Nelson Valdez was brought to Frankfurt to work with Thomas Schaaf again.
To find out what Nelson Valdez can bring to the Seattle Sounders, we talked to Matt Hermann of Deustche Welle Sports and Talking Fußball Extra, a bi-weekly podcast devoted to the Bundesliga. You can find him on Twitter at @mrmatthermann
What would you consider Nelson Valdez's best position?
Matt: In his first stint in the Bundesliga Valdez played as a wing striker or a withdrawn striker. He played most games, but Dortmund nearly always fielded another more traditional striker (be it Mladen Petric, Alexander Frei, or Lucas Barrios) alongside him as the main targetman.
Nelson Valdez has had a long and storied career, what skills does he bring to the table for a manager?
Matt: His best attributes have often been his speed and his will. Valdez was quick and a tireless runner, frequently getting himself into good positions (from which he would often fail to score). It's hard to say how much of this speed and endurance is left at 31 (nearly 32), as he played so little last season in Frankfurt after picking up an injury.
(Author's Note: I went back and reviewed Valdez's performance in Frankfurt's 3-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in April and Valdez still likely has more than enough speed to be a major force in MLS and in the conversation for fastest player on the Sounders. Endurance issues are a concern though.)
Nelson Valdez was present at Borussia Dortmund for the beginning of the Jurgen Klopp era and the evolution of the gegenpress that has come to define German football in recent years. Was Valdez an integral piece of that development, and if not, what defensive skills does he bring to the table instead?
Valdez's pace and energy meant he was very willing to press opposing defenses and thus was a decent Klopp player. Ultimately he fits in with a large group of players (Petric, Frei, Mohamed Zidan, Tamas Hajnal, Florian Kringe, etc.) that Jürgen Klopp had to ship out in order to achieve his vision. Most of them were good professionals overall, but lacked the complete game to let them succeed in a side predicated on pace, passing accuracy, AND tactical intelligence. Valdez was one of many who wasn't quite good enough
Nelson Valdez has a reputation as a weak finisher that doesn't lend much support to his ability as a striker. Is he a more creative one-on-one style player or better as a more traditional winger style wide midfielder?
Valdez is a brave and a decent dribbler, but ends up dispossessed as often as not. I don't know much about how the Sounders like to play but he would probably do best as a striker who's given a bit of freedom to roam into wide areas. If he's still got some of his speed and desire, he could be a crowd-pleaser, even if the goals don't come.