The Houston Dynamo have traded away goalkeeper Joe Willis to Nashville SC and acquired Portland Timbers defender Zarek Valentin.
Although no Houston players were chosen in Tuesday’s MLS expansion draft, a negotiation saw Nashville select Valentin and then trade him to Houston for Willis. The Dynamo can also receive an additional $75,000 in 2021 Targeted Allocation Money based on performance incentives in 2020.
Willis became part of the Dynamo in 2015 and solidified himself as a starter in late 2017 when the main goalie, Deric Tyler, was suspended over off-the-field issues. Willis went on to play a key role in Houston winning the 2018 Open Cup trophy.
Willis became a fan favorite for his personality on and off the field and leaves holding the third spot in the Dynamo’s the all-time saves list.
Valentin is a versatile player, having played as both right back and left back, as well as center back. With the Portland Timbers, he primarily served as a depth piece but was often the first choice whenever injuries cropped up along the back line, making him a heavy contributor despite not being a first-choice starter.
During Valentin’s four seasons with Portland, he started in 84 out of 92 appearances, and he helped his team reached the postseason in three consecutive years, including the 2018 MLS Cup.
“We came into this offseason intent on strengthening our backline and getting younger across the roster,”said Dynamo general manager Matt Jordan in a statement. “Adding Zarek helps address both of those goals. His ability to play right back and left back gives us added flexibility as we construct the team for next year, and his leadership and winning mentality will make him a great addition inside the locker room.”
To the @HoustonDynamo,
I'm extremely excited to join such a historic club. Acquiring me to help build something special means the world and I can't wait to hit the ground running.
Dynamo fans, I'm pumped to meet you and get to know the city and culture! #ForeverOrange
— Zarek Valentin (@ZarekValentin) November 20, 2019
Valentin was a fan-favorite in Portland, having been active in the team’s community outreach effort and he was a fervent supporter of the club’s NWSL team, the Portland Thorns. His teammates have regarded Valentin as a “good locker room guy” who was willing to plug holes in the roster as needed and keep a positive attitude.
Nashville chose Valentin with their second pick in the 2019 MLS expansion draft before trading him to Houston.