PORTLAND, Ore. – There are first professional goals, and then there are first professional goals.
And the first time David Horst found the back of the net in his five-year career? That meant just a bit more.
The big defender’s header past Seattle goalkeeper Andrew Weber off a Franck Songo’o corner kick in the 25th minute was the deciding tally in Portland’s 2-1 victory over their bitter rivals in front of a frenzied, sell-out crowd Sunday afternoon at JELD-WEN Field.
It gave the Timbers their first MLS win over the Sounders, and it breathed life back into a season that had nearly slipped away.
WATCH: Horst’s header sinks Sounders
“I’ll never forget it,” Horst said. “It’s got to be one of the great moments of my life. To score against Seattle in front of all these people, especially with the way we’ve been playing lately, it’s great to get a win for the organization. I couldn’t be more proud of the team today.”
It may be just Portland’s second win in the last seven games, but the result certainly makes Portland’s last time out at JELD-WEN – a 1-0 loss to amateur club Cal FC on May 30 in the US Open Cup – a distant memory. And it also propels them out of the Western Conference cellar with their next eight games against conference opponents.
Horst likened the win to last year’s 3-0 decision over the LA Galaxy on Aug. 3 that sent the Timbers to four wins over the next two months, putting them in the playoff race until the end of the season.
“Last year we had that turning point with LA, where we went on a little run,” Horst said. “Hopefully that’s what today is, a turning point and we can get a bunch of games under our belt and gain some points and get back into that playoff race.”
Timbers head coach John Spencer echoed Horst’s opinions of the victory’s cathartic effects.
“To be honest, I thought we showed an unbelievable amount of character,” Spencer said. “There were a lot of things wrote this week, a lot of things said. And for me actions speak louder than words. And you tell me that players are not playing for me, well I didn’t see anybody not playing for me today.
“I took my hat off to them in the locker room, it was not good tactics, it wasn’t coaching, it was just sheer hard work, determination, and we got just rewards today.”
Horst’s goal, coming nine minutes after a strike by Kris Boyd, culminated a dominating start to the game for the Timbers. In fact, Horst was unlucky not to bag another goal after an 11th-minute header, also off a Songo’o corner kick, clanged off the crossbar.
“I got the taste from the first header that hit the crossbar, and Franck put the ball in the exact same spot again,” Horst said. “That was an unbelievable corner, and I headed it down that time instead of up. It worked out the second time, so it felt pretty good especially in this rivalry.”
Now Portland move on to a road game Saturday against Colorado, who are just three points ahead in the standings.
“We know it’s a long season and that anything can happen,” Horst said. “There’s still five months to go. People who aren’t as familiar with the MLS as we are, they don’t realize that, so they look at the now. And they were getting a little frustrated, but the whole time we had a game plan and the whole time we knew what we needed to do and we want out and did it today.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.