It may be an oft-used metaphor but the term “gladiatorial combat” is an apt one when it comes to the numerous athletic battle between centerback and forward.
Conflicts over position, possession, movement and more are showcased as strikers use their guile to break through the formidable walls that the centerback and his backline present.
Add in the extra flavor of an intense rivalry game, and that gladiatorial battle gets even more pronounced.
For the Portland Timbers on Sunday against the Seattle Sounders (6pm PT - ESPN; 750 AM The Game / La Pantera 940), the Cascadia Cup remains in their grasp as a draw or win means they return home with the silverware.
For this to happen, much will depend on Timbers defender David Horst. In the previous two matches against Seattle, the hulking pride of Pine Grove, PA has come face to face with the speedy Colombian Fredy Montero. How that onfield combat plays out on Sunday afternoon brings us to the KeyBank Match-up.
Horst's "textbook" corner kick goal vs. Seattle
Back in June, Horst was busy at JELD-WEN Field—and not just in defense. Tasked with the double duty of stopping Montero and his strike partner Eddie Johnson—much as he will be today—Horst managed to keep Montero off the scoresheet. Moreover, he was on the end of what MLSsoccer.com called a “textbook cornerkick goal" that marked his first in his MLS career. That timely header proved to be just enough insurance as Johnson managed to score a late second half goal to make the game tense until the end. As for Montero, he threatened but left the Rose City emptyhanded.
Last month in Portland, it was another great showdown. This time around, Montero scored a wonderstrike cracker of a goal after beating Horst to the second ball. It was the one blemish on an otherwise excellent game for the Portland defender who picked up MLS Team of the Week honors for his effort. As MLSsoccer.com’s Nicholas Rosano put it, “Something about the Sounders seems to bring out the best in the 26-year-old. He excelled in the two teams’ earlier meeting of the year and did so again this time around, remaining solid in his positioning and ball-winning throughout the 90 minutes.”
Most importantly, the Timbers showed grit after the Montero goal to fight back in the match with a second half goal from Rodney Wallace to make for a 1-1 draw.
This Sunday, Horst’s aforementioned ball-winning ability will be essential on the backline. With Seattle’s Mauro Rosales and Christian Tiffert in the midfield providing service up to Montero—not to mention Johnson—Horst will be constantly in synch with his backline to make sure nothing sneaks through. There are very few balls that Horst misses and when he does, his skill on the expertly timed tackle will be handy. Getting that ball out quickly and accurately to the Timbers midfield— Horst had an 86% pass completion rate against D.C. United last weekend in another MLS Team of the Week performance—could prove to be one of the most-watched elements of the match.
With 67,000-plus fans watching—18 buses-worth of which will be diehard Timbers fans screaming for the Cascadia Cup—watching round three of the Horst-Montero Battle in Seattle could be the deciding factor. After ninety minutes, we’ll know who walked out of the arena with the gladiatorial success.