Portland Timbers captain Diego Valeri is trying his best to make the most of the extra time at home with MLS league play suspended since March 12 in line with the CDC recommendations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Along with the extra family time, Valeri is taking online coaching courses from his native Argentina.
“Basically it’s an online coaching course with different licenses started by Cesar Luis Menotti in Argentina,” Valeri told media on a video conference call, citing the former coaching legend who led Argentina to the 1978 World Cup and began a coaching movement predicated on all-out attacking soccer.
“I like his style a lot and I admire him [Menotti],” Valeri continued. “And I admire the majority of people who are teaching through this portal. I love it. I started [the course] two and a half years ago. I basically finished it and finished all the exams, but I continue to constantly stay up to date via forums, readings and video classes about different aspects. I’m basically using a lot of time on this.”
But the 33-year-old Valeri, who signed a multi-year contract during the offseason, insisted that he’s not yet sure whether coaching will be his calling after he’s done playing. In fact, he made it clear that he thought the principles that Menotti inspired can apply to any position within a soccer organization.
“I don’t know if I’m going to coach,” he clarified. “I’m just having something else to be prepared. I know that after our career, it’s going to be a different world. You can use all your experiences, but at the end it’s going to be a different kind of environment, different kind of meetings you’re going to have. It’s just for that. To be prepared. And I’m always open to learn.
“I think Menotti’s vision for soccer is universal. His vision for soccer is one that you can implement in any league,” said Valeri, whose eyes lit up when asked whether the Menotti style can translate to MLS. “It’s admirable. It’s a style that I like and it’s what I would fight for if I had the chance to be involved in football wherever. You don’t need to be a coach. What [Menotti] has is a style, a vision for soccer and the soccer player.”
When he’s not studying soccer these days, Valeri is training for it using the help of audio-visual instructional guides shared by the club focusing on strength building and core exercises. He hits the elliptical and stationary bike daily for his aerobic work and there are also the group tactical video sessions run by Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese.
Whatever downtime that’s left for Valeri is dedicated to his wife and daughter. There are the short-run streaming series the Valeris are watching together (he specifically named Self Made on Netflix), playing board games — Ludo, Life, Tutti Frutti are the favorites in the household — as well as getting some air on his terrace, where he kicks the ball around with his daughter and occasionally plays his guitar, surely reflecting on the surreal circumstances of the quarantine.
“We’re human beings and we think as human beings first and then as athletes,” said Valeri, who mentioned his friends and family were all doing well except for a friend in Spain, whose family contracted the virus but has since recovered.
“Life can change things on you and we’re exposed to these changes.”