KeyBank Match-up of the Match: David Horst vs. Luke Rodgers
If you were to look at the roster of the New York Red Bulls in the preseason, you would have been blinded by a glittering array of stars. Ex-Arsenal captain, World Cup winner, and Barcelona star Thierry Henry would leap off the page. Fellow former Barcelona star and current Mexican National Team defender Rafa Marquez would be a close second. Your eye might linger over the emerging young central defender in Tim Ream or perhaps you’d idly wonder about the “other” Rooney, John, and think about what kind of effect the young Englishman would have on the season.
Sometimes though, it's not always the big name stars that win games. Case in point is a Red Bulls player that many had not circled in their preseason ones-to-watch list: Luke Rodgers.
A journeyman forward who made his living in the third and fourth division of the English leagues, most recently with Notts County, Rodgers has become a fiery talisman for New York and key strike partner to the worldly Henry.
With five goals and three assists, his impact with New York and presence in MLS has not gone unnoticed. Timbers head coach John Spencer is keenly aware of Rodgers’ affect. “Luke Rodgers is a smaller guy but a powerful kid,” said Spencer. “He holds the ball up extremely well, links up well and as we’ve seen with a couple of his assists this year, he obviously sees the game and sees the runners off him.”
Discovering an unforeseen revelation such as Rodgers—especially when New York has lost so many players to Gold Cup play—has been a vitally important element for the Red Bulls rocketing to the top of the Eastern Conference. Though slowed by a heel injury, Rodgers will be a player the Timbers will obviously have to keep an eye on this weekend.
Among those tasked with stopping him on Sunday (7pm PT ROOT SPORTS; Galavisión, 750 AM The Game, La Pantera 940 AM) is a Timbers defender who, like Rodgers, was not among the most well-known Timbers players coming into this season. And that brings us to Robbie Earle’s KeyBank Match-up of the Match.
KeyBank Match-up of the Match
While the Timbers have recognizable names on their roster such as Kenny Cooper and Troy Perkins—both one-time U.S. internationals—they have also had success this year relying on players like David Horst who coming into the season were not among the most well known.
A one-time Real Salt Lake back bencher, Horst came onto the Timbers radar while anchoring the Puerto Rico Islanders to the 2010 USSF D-2 championship. Selected in the 2010 Expansion Draft, he came on in the second half of the first game of the 2011 season against the Colorado Rapids. the tenacious defender has since played solidly, gained some notoriety with the fleetingly famous “Horstache,” and was just starting to come into his own when a freak ankle injury sidelined him and opened the door for another second division star in Mamadou “Futty” Danso to make his mark. But with Danso now out with his own injury, the door has re-opened for Horst.
“David has the opportunity to get himself back in the team,” said Spencer. “He played against Chivas here in the Open Cup and he played against New England and played well. He’s waited patiently. It’s up to him now to come in and prove he should stay in the team.”
Big and strong, Horst’s presence in the central defense will be challenged by the short though dartingly quick Rodgers. Yes, there will still be other New York players who pose dangerous threats in Henry as well as Dwayne De Rosario—freshly returned from the CONCACAF Gold Cup—but in watching Horst take on Rodgers, you’ll see an important match-up that many would have not predicted a few months ago. It is also one that showcases just how important team depth is in MLS in that every player is counted upon to contribute.
How that match-up between these two plays out will go a long way to deciding who walks away Sunday with a positive result.