Longtime Portland Timbers MLS fans will remember the name Eric Brunner. The defender was one of the first players selected by Portland in the 2010 MLS Expansion Draft coming to the Rose City after playing two seasons with the Columbus Crew.
That 2011 season saw Brunner become a stalwart on the Portland backline, leading the team in minutes played (2,795), while also setting career-highs in appearances (32), starts (31) and goals (3) that year. Often in the lineup with centerback partner David Horst, the pair also shared a #Movember rivalry of mustache-growing that led to Horst's infamous Horstache.
On a rainy night in March of 2011, Brunner was the captain of the team in what became the club's first MLS log ceremony. While expansion construction finished at then-JELD-WEN Field, the Timbers were drawn into a spring U.S. Open Cup play-in match against Chivas USA that was held at the University of Portland's Merlo Field. With over saw 5,000 fans packed into the intimate collegiate field, Brunner scored in the 86th minute to ice a 2-0 win and receive his first-ever log slab.
Brunner sat down with Timbers.com to talk about that night, that log, and what he's up to now with his family and his job at the popular streaming-platform, Twitch.
Since retiring from playing professionally, where has life taken you and what are you up to now?
I’m married and have a daughter that’s four years old. I have one dog, a French Mastiff (Dogue de Bordeaux) named Ted. Think Hooch from Turner and Hooch. Sadly, Franklin passed away, but he was a PTFC pup through and through. I was able to finish my degree and am working in Business Development for a company called Twitch in the Bay Area.
You were one of the first Timbers players of our MLS era, selected in the Expansion Draft. What do you recall from Expansion Draft Day (Nov. 24, 2010)? What memories do you have from when you learned you were heading to Portland?
I remember the phone call I received and was excited to be on a new journey with a club that has an immense history. It was a new challenge and I was motivated to jump right in. I knew that a teammate was joining me as well, Adam Moffat, and we were great friends while at Columbus, and I also knew Pete Lowry because we were [MLS] Combine roommates. Both were fantastic players and I was excited to meet my new teammates.
Photo: Craig Mitchelldyer / Portland Timbers
You were a very important member of that inaugural team in 2011, playing in all but two games of the regular season. What were some of your favorite or more memorable moments of that season – on or off the field?
On the field, I'd have to say being able to play in front of such a passionate fan base is something every player strives for. A packed stadium is what you want to play in front of. I was able to witness and partake in some pretty amazing moments for the club, so I do feel honored to have been able to do that. Off the field, I made great relationships with some of the fans that I still chat with from time to time but also learning the city of Portland was something I'll never forget. Fantastic food. Fantastic beer, and overall a great community to be apart of.
Fun fact: you scored in a U.S. Open Cup play-in match against Chivas USA in March of 2011 at Merlo Field. You and Jack Jewsbury were the first Timbers MLS players to get log slabs. One of the club’s unique traditions, what was it like to participate in that first log ceremony?
Being a defender, I don't expect to be in these positions often, let alone for such a historic moment, so I was a little unsure of the ceremony. Ryan Pore, he had a lot of experience in that department, actually told us what it was. To be able to raise the slab and celebrate with the Timbers Army was indescribable. I had a rush I can't explain. It's a team effort, and the Timbers Army is definitely involved, even if they aren't on the pitch so it's fitting to celebrate with them. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had playing. To have the ability to experience it a few more times, later on, was the icing on the cake.
Do you have a favorite game or two that stands out during your Timbers days – all competitions? What made those so memorable?
The game at Merlo field against Chivas because it was the first game as a team in MLS and to start it off with a win was a great confidence booster for the group. We had a great start to the season and that was the first reaction in that chain.
Photo: Craig Mitchelldyer / Portland Timbers
Looking back on your career, what does it mean, to you, to have been one of the pioneering members of this club’s MLS days?
Honored and humbled to be a part of Timbers' history. It was a really special time for the club and to see it grow to where it's at now, is awesome to see. I'm clearly now a part of the fanbase because of what I've experienced.