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SCORESHEET/Portland's record-setting midfielder deserving, but not the odds-on favorite for award

Might Portland be able to celebrate a Most Valuable Player award in a top professional league for only the second time?

It's probably still a long shot, but the Timbers' Diego Valeri is making a strong push to be taken seriously for such an honor. The 31-year-old Argentine set a MLS record Saturday when he scored in his eighth consecutive match.VALERI

The Timbers lost at Real Salt Lake, 2-1, but are still on solid footing to qualify for the MLS playoffs. But for Valeri to win the MVP, Portland probably needs to finish first in the Western Conference.

David Villa, the 35-year-old Spanish star who plays for New York City FC, leads the league with 19 goals and is a good bet to repeat as MVP.

If that happens, it will be reminiscent of when Clyde Drexler was awesome for the Blazers ... but wasn't Michael Jordon.

Still, Valeri has 18 goals this season — a Timbers MLS record and the same number Peter Withe scored for the club way back in its birth year of 1975. With one more goal this season, Valeri will set a MLS record for goals by a midfielder in a season.

Whether or not Valeri is recognized as MLS MVP, he's having a special season — one Portland fans can savor since it comes from a first-class person who has embraced this city since arriving in 2013.

• Perhaps neither will finish as MVP if Atlanta United's Josef Martinez stays hot. The 24-year-old Venezuelan scored six goals in Atlanta's two most recent games and seven in a seven-day stretch and has 16 goals for the expansion club.

• The one time a Portland player won major professional MVP honors? Bill Walton in the 1977-78 NBA season.

• Those who scoff at calling a soccer league a major professional sport in this country might want to reconsider.

On Saturday in Atlanta, a MLS-record crowd of 70,425 jammed the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium to watch Atlanta battle Orlando City. ATL is averaging 47,929 fans per home game, on track to top Seattle's MLS record for average attendance (44,247 in 2015) and possibly the pro soccer record of 47,856, which the NASL's New York Cosmos averaged in 1978.

• The Timbers' push toward the playoffs continues at 5 p.m. Sunday, when Orlando City visits Providence Park.

Portland (12-10-8, 44 points) is tied for second place in the West.

Sunday's match will be the first at home for the Timbers since Aug. 23 — and will start a stretch of three out of four at home to close the regular season.

Preps

The Mt. Hood Conference football battle between Central Catholic and Clackamas is 7 p.m. Friday at Clackamas.

Portland Interscholastic League favorites Madison and Lincoln play at 6 p.m. Friday at Lincoln, while contending Jefferson takes a 3-0 record into its road game vs. Grant on the Marshall field.

Colleges

In cross country, the Oregon women are ranked second in the nation behind Colorado, and the UO men are eight. The Portland Pilots men are No. 17.

Golf

On the Web.com Tour, former Jesuit High golfer Scott Harrington took a step back by missing the cut last week in the Albertsons Boise Open. Two of the four events in the tour finals remain — this week's DAP Championship at Beachwood, Ohio, and the Web.com Tour Championship Sept. 28-Oct. 1 at Atlantic Beach, Florida. Harrington is 45th on the finals money list and will need two good weeks, or one great one, to move into the top 25 and advance to the PGA Tour.

Ex-Oregon Duck and Beaverton High golfer Ben Crane was disqualified last week at Boise after a flap involving stickers he had left on two clubs in his bag. But he's still tied for 10th on the finals money list and in position to stay on the PGA Tour.

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