PORTLAND, Ore. — There are a number of Portland Timbers players whose future with the club is up in the air.
Defender David Horst is not one of them.
The big central defender was locked up before the season even began when he was signed to a multi-year deal. And after preseason surgery kept him sidelined for the first couple months of the season, Horst paid dividends as the team's most reliable member of a backline that was in flux for much of the season.
"I think David has matured to take on a leadership role on this team," interim head coach and general manager Gavin Wilkinson said. "And I keep saying this, and I sound ridiculous, but he's a tremendous person to be around. He's becoming a fan favorite, which I completely understand, but he rolls his sleeves up each and every game and wears his heart on his sleeve. He cares."
His status was solidified when he wore the captain's armband in Saturday's season finale against San Jose, which ended in a 1-1 draw. The Timbers usual captain, midfielder Jack Jewsbury, was given the game off.
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"This is a great honor," Horst said after the game. "With a storied franchise, and for me to wear this armband is something special."
Horst's other comments surrounding the San Jose game, which also resulted in Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski's record-tying 27th goal of the season, also exemplified Horst's emerging status as a team leader.
He bluntly expressed his desire to prevent Wondolowski from setting the record. And when the Quakes forward did via the penalty kick, Horst was clearly not happy about it.
“I didn’t want Wondo to tie the record. I didn’t want him to beat it,” he said. “We kind of had an inkling coming into the game that there would be some type of phantom PK call."
It's been a rapid rise for Horst as far as his standing in the squad. He only joined the Timbers in their inaugural season last year after spending his first three years in MLS mostly as a reserve player for Real Salt Lake. But he was able to finish 2012 with a career high in starts and minutes, while also scoring his first goal.
And Horst has not only shown a fierce loyalty to his club but to his community. He was named Community Player of the Year at the Timbers awards banquet Sunday for his numerous community outreach efforts.
"He thoroughly cares about this organization," Wilkinson said. "He's been given a chance where he's been discarded in the past. He wants to repay the organization, and we're thoroughly thrilled with his progress over the course of the season. He's a very good professional and he works hard and he's getting repaid for it."
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.