HOUSTON – If you hear David Horst’s teammates yelling, “I’m gonna wreck it!” at him, be aware that it is a compliment.
The saying is the motto of popular Disney character Wreck-It Ralph, a loveable giant whose job is to destroy things. The Houston Dynamo newcomer has earned the nickname for his stature, a stout 6-foot-4, and his ability to be physical and disruptive in the back.
Host lived up to the name in Saturday's season-opening 4-0 win over the New England Revolution, dominating in the air and making several important sliding tackles to snuff out attacking opportunities, including one on Diego Fagundez that halted a one-on-one chance in the penalty area.
It was a performance worthy of the nickname.
“It fits,” goalkeeper Tally Hall said with a laugh. “He’s a very big guy, very strong, and destroys a lot of the other team’s attack. It was fun playing with him in the preseason, and it was fun playing with him Saturday.”
Horst has embraced the nickname, joking about it on Twitter. However, his play in his Dynamo debut was no laughing matter.
The newcomer started next to Jermaine Taylor in his first competitive game in Dynamo orange and seemed to fit seamlessly into the Dynamo defense, showing a good understanding with Taylor and right back Kofi Sarkodie.
It was a welcome start for a player that arrived in Houston in an under-the-radar move after spending most of 2013 on the injured list, first with a groin injury and then a broken bone in his right leg – suffered in a collision with now-teammate Giles Barnes – as the Portland Timbers made a run to finishing first in the Western Conference. In spite of that injury-marred season, his physical attributes drew the attention of Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear.
“You saw how good he was in the air,” Kinnear said. “I think it’s going to be a strength of ours for him to attack those.”
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With his strong presence slotted next to Taylor, also capable of playing physically, Saturday’s success offers a glimpse of a strengthened Dynamo backline. Over the long season, however, Horst & Co. must develop as a unit and be prepared to handle opposing counter-attacks, against which they struggled in the preseason.
“Obviously, we’re still working to learn each other’s tendencies," Horst said. "The other three guys have been together and played a lot together, so I’m just coming in and trying to do what [Kinnear] wants me to do, which is win my tackles and win every head ball.”
Tackles, headers, maybe opponents? Horst's teammates hope he will continue wrecking, even without Ralph's trademark overalls.
“I like Horst, he brings some tenacity,” Sarkodie said after Saturday’s win. “He brings a lot of tenacity, a lot of power and a lot of grit. I think that’s going to scare a lot of teams this season as we move forward.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.