PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The goals seem to almost be coming easy for Diego Valeri.
Valeri scored twice to extend his MLS-record scoring streak to nine straight games and the Portland Timbers beat Orlando City 3-0 on Sunday. He moved in front of NYCFC’s David Villa for most goals this season with 20.
“I’m happy about it. You never expect that before the season starts,” Valeri said. “I’m happy to help the team with goals.”
The Argentine midfielder scored on a penalty kick in the 15th minute to extend the streak. Fans chanted “M-V-P! M-V-P!” after his second goal in the 59th minute, which put him in the lead for the Golden Boot award.
“I think any time guys are scoring goals at the rate that he is it’s a confidence thing, and he’s just been riding this wave,” Timbers coach Caleb Porter said. “He’s always scored goals, I’ve said that. He’s always played well. But he’s rode a tidal wave of confidence, and we hope it continues.”
The Timbers, who moved into second place in Western Conference behind Vancouver, won their fourth straight at home.
Orlando City’s chances of making the playoffs grew slimmer with the loss. The slumping Lions, who have won just once in their past 11 games, were in second-to-last place in the East. The team won six of its first seven games of the season.
“We felt we had to win all of our remaining matches, so I think the chances look really slim at the moment,” Orlando coach Jason Kreis said. “But that doesn’t change the fact that we’ll put out our best team and go for three points every match from here on out. It’s important that the players recognize what’s at stake now.”
Toronto FC and NYCFC have already clinched playoff spots.
After Valeri’s early penalty kick, the Timbers pushed the lead on Darren Mattocks’ goal off a cross from Dairon Asprilla in the 30th minute. It was Mattocks’ third goal of the season.
Jonathan Spector was sent off in the first minute of the second half after his second yellow card of the game for a foul on Valeri, and Orlando was down to 10 players.
After Valeri’s second goal, the match got chippy with some shoving as Orlando set up for a free kick.
Victor Pagliari Giro was sent off in the 85th for appearing to elbow Portland’s Diego Chara in the face. The Lions were reduced to nine players the rest of the way.
Valeri has scored more goals than any other Timbers player across all eras.
The game featured the newest Timber, 5-year-old goalkeeper Derek Tellez, who was signed to a one-game contract to grant his wish with Make-a-Wish Oregon.
Tellez, who has had three surgeries for a cancerous brain tumor, got a rousing ovation from fans when he was introduced as a sub on the video scoreboard. He also stood with the team during the national anthem and posed for the official match photo.
Derrick clearly captured hearts on the team.
“We promised him the win before the game in the locker room, and I walked out after thinking, ‘Oh man, I hope we win,'” Porter joked. “It would have gone from Make-a-Wish to Break-a-Wish, you know? Fortunately we got him the win.”