Carlos Valdes knew he'd eventually return to the Philadelphia Union after heading overseas following the 2012 MLS season, and his comeback seemingly has come at a perfect time as he looks to help the club get back into playoff contention.
Valdes and fellow international signee Rais Mbolhi could make their season debuts Saturday night for Philadelphia, which looks to deal former Union forward Jack McInerney and the visiting Montreal Impact a seventh straight defeat.
After two solid seasons with Philadelphia, Valdes left on loan to help Columbia in World Cup qualifying before it reached the quarterfinals of the tournament this year. After the loss to host Brazil, the defender began to consider rejoining to the Union.
"I always was thinking to come back one day because I think this is my second family," Valdes told the club's official website. "I love the people in Philadelphia. I love my teammates. As soon as the World Cup finished, I was thinking again about coming back to Philadelphia."
The Union (5-8-9) could use his help as they sit outside of the playoff picture position in the Eastern Conference.
"He's a guy that can slide right in and become a top center back in our league right off the bat and give us a push down the stretch here," interim coach Jim Curtin said.
Philadelphia is 1-0-3 in its last four matches after a 1-all draw with Sporting Kansas City last Friday. Its victory in that stretch was a rare one at home, where it's 2-2-5 this season.
It's unclear if Curtin will elect to start Mbolhi, the goalkeeper who starred for Algeria in the World Cup. No matter who is in net, the Union will have to contend with a determined McInerney, Philadelphia's leading scorer the past two seasons before being traded to Montreal on April 4.
"It's definitely exciting," McInerney said. "I don't think there would be any better feeling than scoring against them."
McInerney leads the Impact (3-13-5) with six goals, but he hasn't scored during their team-record six-game MLS losing streak. Marco Di Vaio recorded the game's lone goal to help Montreal beat FAS in a CONCACAF Champions League match Tuesday, but McInerney is focused on improving the club's MLS mark.
"It's definitely a big game on Saturday and we need to go there with the attitude that we need the three points," he said. "There are still a lot of games that need to be played where we can get results and build our reputation."
Despite Montreal's struggles, Curtin knows the Union will be in for a tough test. The clubs played to a 1-all draw March 29 before the Impact earned a 1-0 victory April 26, improving their record in the all-time series to 4-1-2.
"We're not going to take them lightly," Curtin said. "It's basically in our hands whether we make the playoffs or not. We'll have no one to answer to but ourselves."
Montreal defender Hassoun Camara is suspended for this contest due to yellow card accumulation.