It seemed like an easy enough decision for the Portland Timbers.
With defender David Horst out up to seven months after undergoing offseason hip surgery and the rest of the club’s back line relatively thin heading into 2012, the club needed a defender.
Enter Andrew Jean-Baptiste, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Generation adidas newcomer out of Connecticut who was taken with the eighth overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft last Thursday.
“I want to come in and be put in a spot,” Jean-Baptiste told MLSsoccer.com after his selection. “I don’t want people to look at me as a young player. I want to come in and prove a point and show everybody that I deserved the pick at that position.”
Jean-Baptiste certainly has the physical tools to fill the role. Many analysts considered him the among the draft's most physically MLS-ready talents on the board. As a sophomore at Connecticut, he was named the Big East Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
“I’m a composed player on the back line, who looks to play with the team, get touches on the ball as opposed to just kick and run,” he said. “So with me as an addition to the team, there is going to be a lot of beautiful football played at the stadium.”
Although Jean-Baptiste said he didn’t know he was on Portland’s radar until the pick, it certainly made sense for the Timbers. The injury to Horst left three just players with experience at the center back position entering the draft: Eric Brunner, Mamadou “Futty” Danso and Steve Purdy.
“When I found out that I possibly could be coming to Portland, I was really shocked and very excited. I can’t wait,” he said. “I’m just very excited. I just want to get with my team and start bonding with them as soon as possible.”
Jean-Baptiste said he’s most looking forward to playing in front of Portland’s noted fan base at JELD-WEN Field.
“I can’t wait,” he said. “Just playing in front of a great fan base like that, it’s incredible. Just to know there are that many fans supporting you, it’s a great honor. And not many teams have that.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WATCH: Andrew Jean-Baptiste talks with MLSsoccer.com