Portland Timbers defender Mikael Silvestre moves on from tough MLS debut

PORTLAND, Ore. – Mikaël Silvestre’s Portland Timbers debut went about as badly as one could imagine.

The 35-year-old former French international, Manchester United and Arsenal defender had two howlers that directly led to goals for the New York Red Bulls, putting the Timbers in a 3-1 first-half hole. Portland eventually rallied for a feel-good 3-3 tie, and the focus since has been on the team’s dominant second-half offensive performance.

But that doesn’t mean Silvestre has forgotten about it. And with his first full week of training with his new club under his belt, Silvestre is ready to redeem himself Saturday against Montreal Impact at JELD-WEN Field (10:30 pm ET, MLS Live).

“I’ve been here eight days now, so the jet lag is over, and I should be fresh to be back again tomorrow,” Silvestre said after a sun-drenched training session Friday. “The way we finished the game and the way I finished the game was much better. So if we start on this level we have a good chance to get a win. And the objective of a defender is to get a clean sheet, so the sooner we can achieve that the better it will be for the team."

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Before debuting against New York, Silvestre had just two training sessions after he returned from sorting out visa issues in Paris.

Jet-lagged would have been a good way to describe his first half against the Red Bulls. His first mistake came when he made an ill-advised pass in tight quarters back to goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, who couldn’t corral the pass. The loose ball fell directly to Fabián Espíndola for the open-net goal.

For his second gaffe, he misjudged a long pass down the right flank of which Espíndola was again the beneficiary.

“It’s maybe a situation we put him in maybe a little bit sooner than we should have,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said. “But it’s nice he worked through the kinks, he made a few mistakes, he acknowledged it, which shows his character and how humble he is that he acknowledged it, but moving forward, he’ll be fine.”

Porter said he conducted a video session this week with the entire backline and midfielders Diego Chará and Will Johnson. Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Portland’s first-round SuperDraft pick last year, will likely start again alongside Silvestre as veterans David Horst and Hanyer Mosquera are still returning from injuries.

Porter said he didn’t have to point out major organizational issues, just make the group aware of the mistakes that helped “shoot ourselves in the foot.”

“[Silvestre] looks more comfortable, obviously, this week because he’s had time with the other three backs,” Porter said. “He’s had time to get his legs underneath him as well.”

Another big mistake against a counterattacking Montreal squad could be costly. Despite being on their back foot for most of last Saturday’s game against Seattle – a game Porter scouted in person – Montreal took advantage of one of their few opportunities for a 1-0 victory.

Match Preview: Portland Timbers vs. Montreal Impact

With Portland’s attacking style, Porter said they always have to be aware of the counter. Meanwhile, Silvestre said he’s more than ready to put last week’s game behind him.

“I feel better and better as time goes on,” he said.

Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.