Nelson Haedo Valdez is the ninth Designated Player in Seattle Sounders history. He's an active international for a team that consistently does well against South American opposition, spent most of his professional career with some of Germany's top clubs, is a proven -- if not prolific -- scorer and appears to be in impeccable shape at 31 years old.
Under normal circumstances, his signing would likely be hailed as a significant addition.
But these aren't normal circumstances. The Sounders are mired in the worst run of results in their history -- having lost a franchise worst five straight and eight of their past nine. Sounders fans likely wanted a savior, and nothing about Valdez suggests he's that kind of player.
What the Sounders think they have in Valdez is a far more complementary part than paradigm shifting acquisition.
"He’s a very hard worker," was the first thing Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said when asked to talk about what the team saw in Valdez. "He’s technically very good. He’s got very good character -- I think you probably senses that, he’s got a very good personality. I think he’s going to fit in well with the group. He gives us a guy who can play up front, he’s played wide before as well. He’s played different positions, so that’s a good thing as well. He’s not the tallest guy, he’s very good in the air – he gets up and he challenges very well. He’s got big-game experience. He’s been in big tournaments, important matches."
None of that screams "will single-handedly save our season," but despite their recent and dramatic struggles, the Sounders shouldn't really need that from one player.
What they need, as they've been saying for awhile now, is to get everyone healthy and actually get a few games together with the same lineup.
As unacceptable as this recent run has been, it should be noted that Osvaldo Alonso, Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins have combined to log six appearances in that time, and all three were out in the same game in four of those.
What the Sounders see in Valdez is someone who can not only fill the void when those guys are missing, but complement the other talented players on the roster.
"My job is to give my coach options," Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey said. "By adding Valdez, we give our coach a lot of options. Look, we just went through a rough pitch with Clint and Oba both out, and we need to avoid being in that situation again, where if we lose one or both of those guys that we have an answer. And we have an answer."
Let's not understate Valdez's accomplishments, either. Yes, he's coming off a season in which he scored just a single goal and played only 500-odd minutes for Eintracht-Frankfurt after coming back from a knee injury. But Valdez has actually been really great on a per-minute basis over the last few years. Even including his disappointing season with Frankfurt, Valdez is averaging .55 goals per 90 minutes in league play over the past three seasons.
"He’s a brilliant attacker," Lagerwey said. "He can come from wide positions and he can come from central positions, so he gives us tactical flexibility. He’s a guy who can play with Clint and Oba and he can play when one of those guys is out – which is really what we’re looking for."
"He’s a guy that can hurt you a lot of different ways. He’s a really hard worker – if you look at his data from the Bundesliga in particular, you can see that he runs. And sometimes what you don’t want in high-profile players is guys who won’t play for the team. Not only is this guy going to play for the team, but he’s going to work."
Valdez might not be the kind of signing you can tell your Eurosnob friends about and win any style points. But Valdez does seem like the type of player who succeeds in MLS, and hopefully one who can help the Sounders turn around their season.