BEAVERTON, Ore. – Defensive struggles have been the theme for the Portland Timbers’ young 2013 season, but help may soon be on the way in the form of veteran central defender David Horst.
The big 27-year-old, who started the second-most games on Portland’s backline last year, is completing his first week of full training with the club after suffering a hip injury early this preseason. He rejoined training sessions late last week and said his availability just a matter of returning to full fitness ahead of Saturday’s game at Colorado (6 pm ET, watch on MLS Live).
“I’m getting healthy again, and getting back into the swing of things,” the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Horst told MLSsoccer.com after Thursday’s session at the team training facility. “Soccer is the easy thing for me to pick up, it’s just the physical part and getting the body back and getting my legs underneath me and getting fit again.”
Portland have gone with veteran EPL defender Mikaël Silvestre, signed just ahead of the season opener, and second-year professional Andrew Jean-Baptiste at central defense. The results have been mixed. Portland allowed three goals in a 3-3 tie week one against New York and two the next week in a 2-1 loss to Montreal.
Portland’s best defensive effort this season came March 16 in a 1-1 draw at Seattle.
“The problems that we’ve had back there aren’t really big problems, I think they’re easy fixes,” Horst said. “I think Drew and Mikaël have played really well back there. I don’t think that they deserve to lose their starting spots, at all. It’s going to come down to me working hard and showing the coaches that I can play the same level that I ended last year at.”
Horst started the Timbers’ final 14 games last season, and showed impressive glimpses alongside Colombian Hanyer Mosquera, who has not played this season due to an injury and was recently granted an indefinite leave of absence to attend to personal matters in his native Colombia. In the 14 games Horst started, Portland had a 1.4 goals-against average under the guidance of interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson.
Horst said it was frustrating to miss out on a chance to impress new head coach Caleb Porter in the preseason.
“You always want to make a good first impression with the coach, especially a new coach,” Horst said. “And there were a lot of new players coming into camp, so it was a wide open race for a position. I was hoping to cement a starting spot, it didn’t happen with the injury but that’s not going to deter me. I’m going to keep working hard and try to win that spot back.”
Horst said he and Porter have discussed his status, and he won’t be rushed into the lineup until his fitness is 100 percent. He’s planning to play in Sunday’s Reserve League game against Colorado and hopes to be in the 18 for the first-team game on Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
“I’ve done everything all week to make the 18, but ultimately it’s the coach’s decision,” he said. “I’ve stayed healthy, worked on my fitness and ultimately it comes down to what they want to decide. But you know, every week I’m always aiming to get back into the 18 or the starting 11. … I just have to earn my spot; nothing will ever be given to me. Ever since I’ve been here it’s always been about earning that spot, and I think I’ve done that for the past few years.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.