Nelson Valdez was officially announced as the Seattle Sounders' latest Designated Player signing on Friday. The Paraguay international and Bundesliga veteran is the second significant signing of the week, joining Austria international Andreas Ivanschitz. As part of the deal, the Sounders used Targeted Allocation Money to "buy down" Osvaldo Alonso's salary-cap hit.
"It's exciting to add a player of Nelson's pedigree. His addition allows us to vary our attack and makes us even more potent upfront," Sounders FC General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey said in a team statement. "It can't be overstated how important a player with this type of experience can be for our team. Nelson has played in some of the world's top competitions, including two FIFA World Cups and two Copa America tournaments, and he's a welcome addition to our roster."
Valdez gives the Sounders the kind of player they said they've been looking for: Someone who can play wide, serve as a third forward and has a proven track record. Although Valdez has never really been known as a prolific goal-scorer -- his career high in a single European season is nine, and that came in 2005/06 with Werder Bremen -- he has scored in big games, was of high enough quality that he was a starter during Parguay's run to the 2010 World Cup semifinals and is coming off a Copa America performance that included a goal against Argentina. It should also be said that he's just a year removed from a campaign with Greek power Olympiakos in which he scored six goals in just 10 appearances.
Valdez has also performed well in his time with the Paraguay national team. He has over 68 caps with the senior team and has scored 12 goals, including five in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers. Immediately after the 2010 World Cup -- where Paraguay lost in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Spain -- Valdez joined La Liga side Hercules, becoming the most expensive signing in the club's history. In his debut, he scored two goals to help his team defeat FC Barcelona.
Despite his height (5' 10"), Valdez is strong in the air. At Eintracht Frankfurt, he averaged 3.6 successful aerial duels per 90 minutes (winning 41% of all aerial duels). By comparison, Clint Dempsey averages 1.3 this season and Obafemi Martins 0.68.
Like Ivanschitz, Valdez's signing suggests the Sounders are very much in a win-now mindset. The 31-year-old is coming off a season that was shortened by a knee injury, and although he is apparently healthy, there's probably not much reason to think he has more than a couple high-quality years left in the tank. In the meantime, though, Valdez comes to the Sounders with a reputation as a physical player who's more than willing to sacrifice his body for the good of the team.