MLS: Top 5 attacking midfielders in league history

MLS, Landon Donovan (Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images)
MLS, Landon Donovan (Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images) /
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Portland Timbers, Diego Valeri
PORTLAND, OR – JULY 27: Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri salutes the fans after the Portland Timbers 4-0 victory over the LA Galaxy at Providence Park, on July 27, 2019, in Portland, OR (Photo by Diego G Diaz/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images). /

4. Diego Valeri

Taking the No.4 spot on our list of the best-ever attacking midfielders to grace Major League Soccer with their presence is the only man in our top five that still plays in the league today, Portland’s Diego Valeri.

Before moving to MLS, Valeri spent a decade-long period with Argentinian side Lanus. He played 151 times for the club in his home nation, with loan spells with Porto and Almeria on European shores before moving to the United States prior to the 2013 season.

MLS Career & Honours:

  • Portland Timbers (2013-)


  • MLS MVP – 2017
  • MLS Best XI – 2013, 2014, 2017
  • MLS Cup MVP – 2015
  • MLS Newcomer of the Year – 2013


  • MLS Cup – 2015

Valeri, who had made his international debut for Argentina two years earlier, joined Portland on loan from Lanus for the 2013 season, with the Timbers choosing to exercise the option to buy the midfielder that August after his performances had convinced the hierarchy at Providence Park to do so.

In his first season in the league, the Argentinian scored ten times in 31 regular-season appearances, whilst also recording 13 assists. His performances saw him named MLS Newcomer of the Year for the 2013 campaign, and he was also named into the MLS Best XI alongside two fellow members of the Timbers, Will Johnson and Donovan Ricketts.

His figures improved in 2014, with 11 goals and 14 assists to his name across 33 regular-season matches, a career-high for games played in a single season. Thanks to his efforts, he was named into the MLS Best XI for a second successive campaign, this time as the only member of the Timbers, in a season where the franchise failed to reach the playoffs.

A year later, and Portland were completely resurgent, as they went all the way to win the MLS Cup in 2015. Valeri struggled with injuries during the regular season, playing in just 22 matches, but he featured in all five post-season games and broke the record for the fastest ever goal in an MLS Cup final when he scored just 27 seconds into their clash with Columbus Crew. He was named MLS Cup MVP for his efforts in the final, in which Portland won 2-1 to lift the trophy for the first time in their history.

2016 saw the Argentinian score 14 goals in the regular season, but the Timbers failed to qualify for the post-season for the second time in three years. A year later, and they would make it into the playoffs, on the back of an MVP season from Valeri. The midfielder scored 21 goals and assisted on 11 other strikes, whilst also becoming part of the 50-50 club, the 18th player to do so in the league’s history.

The 2017 campaign saw Valeri break the record for most consecutive matches scored in during the regular season with nine, only beaten by Josef Martinez in 2019, and his mark of 21 goals remains the highest single-season mark for a midfielder in MLS history. He was awarded MLS MVP honours, and named into the MLS Best XI for a third time in his career, again being the only Portland player to make it into the esteemed side.

MLS, Diego Valeri
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – JULY 21: Diego Valeri #8 of Portland Timbers reacts in the first half against the Seattle Sounders during their game at CenturyLink Field on July 21, 2019, in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

Valeri hit double digits in both goals and assists for a fourth time in the 2018 term, scoring 10 and recording 12 assists as he started 31 times during the regular season. The Timbers made it to the MLS Cup final for a second time during the Argentinian’s tenure in Portland, but they were defeated by Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The 2019 season saw Valeri break into the 75-75 club, becoming only the sixth member in the league’s history, joining MLS royalty in Landon Donovan, Jaime Moreno, Dwayne De Rosario, Preki and Steve Ralston. The campaign also saw the Argentinian record his best-ever assist figures, setting up 16 goals in 31 appearances. He also played in both games for the Timbers at the start of the 2020 term before the suspension of the league due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Valeri currently stands on 78 goals and 81 assists in just 213 regular-season appearances, whilst also having 18 post-season games under his belt, in which he has scored six times and recorded seven assists. The Portland captain remains a key and influential figure at the club, and at 34-year-old, he still has a good few years left in the tank.