Nelson Haedo Valdez turned 33 just prior to winning MLS Cup with the Seattle Sounders FC. In 2016 he was an all-effort forward who had difficulty scoring. Valdez left the Sounders to join Cerro Porteño, enabling Seattle to possibly sign a new DP. For all of Nelson’s struggles as a Sounder, without him the 2016 playoffs do not end with a Cup.
The ranking is based on several hundred Sounder at Heart readers’ votes. Realio rated every single MLS regular season and playoff game as well as the two CONCACAF Champions League matches. He did not rate USL or USOC play.
Nelson Haedo Valdez 2016
Few players understand how to occupy threatening space better than Valdez. He was regularly in the right place to take a shot. Unfortunately his time with Seattle was full of misses, until the playoffs. Nelson is a strong aerial winner, though that did not translate to goals. His strong hold up play is particularly strong as a winger, but is alright in central spaces. Can be a target on set-pieces, but should be a play to knock the ball towards a teammate, rather than scoring.
Valdez may be the perfect forward for a team that presses often. He is tireless and willing to put in the grunt work to help his squad get the ball back. He will harass that backline until they start to assume that there is always a man on, because there often is. He holds great value in defending set-pieces as well.
No one shall ever question Valdez effort and willingness to throw his body into the game of soccer. There are faster player, better leapers, players with more nimble feet, but Valdez is heart and soul personified.
Nelson Valdez started the season off strong, garnering a 7 average over both CCL matches. He was one of the best players against Club America, and he followed this up with a nice start to the MLS season, earning an average or above rating for the first seven matches. Unfortunately, He began to struggle mightily and by mid-season with 12 appearances for coach Schmid his scores averaged out to 5.83.
Interestingly enough, Valdez also appeared 12 times for coach Schmetzer during the regular season, earning the exact same 5.83 mark over those games. One consistent for Nelson was a lack of goal or assist production, something he was being counted on to provide. An energetic, hard working grinder up top, Nelson consistently did the right thing, only to fail at achieving the end result. He played very badly in a substitute appearance in the 2-4 Portland loss, failing to help a team valiantly fighting back, instead earning a yellow card and being very ineffective on the way to a “3” rating.
Despite this, he kept his head up through a lot of adversity this year and was back to being a valuable bench player by the end of the year. This was important because by working his way back into “first guy off the bench” status Valdez was set up to burst onto the scene in the playoffs, which he did in spectacular fashion. A game winning goal vs. SKC earned him a starting role the next week, one he kept all the way through the Cup Final. Nelson Valdez was by far the biggest surprise of the post season, raising his score a whopping 1.5 points on average and posting a massive 7.33 cumulative playoff mark. This helped bring him to an above average 6.188 rating on the year that I think was spot on for his contributions to the Cup Champions.
Valdez didn’t score like everyone hoped, but he was a player whose level of play really increased in CCL and MLS playoffs. Nelson has a tremendous work rate, and is a big influence in the locker room. Unfortunately for all involved, he simply wasn’t good enough for what his salary demanded, and there was never much hope from me that he would re-sign here. I was happy to hear he went back to his native country, and think he can still offer much to a team that can afford what he brings.
Best Case 2017:
With Cerro Porteño he gets to play in front of the land that loves him more than any other. Here’s hoping that The Lion of Paraguay wins another title.