SportsPulse: Martin Rogers believes the World Cup group stage is filled with plenty of drama, potential Cinderella stories and star-studded matchups. So much so you’ll forget the U.S. isn’t in it.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Even when Portland’s Diego Valeri is recognized for his own play, he somehow finds a way to turn the focus back on the team.

That’s no different now that he’s been named Major League Soccer’s Most Valuable Player.

“Since I arrived here I wanted to make an impact on the league and my club, and that’s made me happy,” he said. “Any reward is part of that. That’s been important for me.”

The 31-year-old native of Argentina had 21 goals and 11 assists this season for the Timbers, who finished atop the Western Conference.

He is the first midfielder in league history with 20 or more goals in a single season and just the second player overall with at least 20 goals and 10 assists in a single season. His 32 combined goals and assists were the most of any player this season, and rank him fifth in MLS history.

Valeri was named the league’s 2017 Landon Donovan MVP award recipient on Monday by vote of the league’s club managers, media members and current players. The other nominees included Atlanta’s Miguel Almiron, Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco, NYCFC’s David Villa and Chicago’s Nemanja Nikolic.

“You fight hard all season, and to be named player of the year is amazing,” he told The Associated Press. “You work hard for the team and to be recognized from your own people, it’s awesome.”


Valeri has scored 58 goals since joining the Timbers in 2013, most for Portland since the team’s inception in 1975. He also won the league’s Newcomer of the Year following his first season, and was named MVP of the MLS Cup in 2015, when the Timbers defeated the Columbus Crew for the league title.

He set a new league record with a goal in nine consecutive games this season from July 29 to Sept. 24.

Valeri’s talent — as well as his humility — has endeared him to soccer fans and non-fans alike in Portland. The Timbers’ accessible star is active in the community, known to pop in on rec league games to cheer — and not just for his…