Timbers defender hopes to reclaim starting spot
Portland Timbers defender Eric Brunner was born in Dublin, Ohio, played for Ohio State and spent two of his first three MLS seasons with the Columbus Crew.
His 46th-minute header in a 1-0 win over the Crew on May 21 will rank as a career highlight.
'I don't score too many goals,' Brunner says. 'I get excited when I score one, just because they don't happen too often. Against the Crew, it was nice to help us secure three points.'
What will probably rank as a career lowlight is that Brunner had to watch on TV in Portland on Saturday as the Timbers won at Chicago 1-0. He was serving a one-match suspension for a red card against the Seattle Sounders.
'It was tough,' Brunner says. 'It was weird. I wanted to be there for the guys and support them. I had the itch for sure.'
The victory was Portland's first in eight matches. It was also the first clean sheet for the Timbers since their conquest of Columbus.
The question is, has Brunner lost his starting spot? Defender Kevin Goldthwaite suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the Chicago match, but David Horst filled in and played well.
'We'll see,' Timber coach John Spencer said, when asked whether Brunner would start Saturday at Columbus (5 p.m. PT). 'Every week is different. We've come back from a good win. It's the first clean sheet that we've had in a while.'
Spencer wasn't pleased with Brunner's last three performances. But, the coach adds, 'he's been one of our most consistent performers, so I wouldn't say that he's lost his position.'
The 6-3, 170-pound Brunner is leaving whether he steps onto the pitch in his Columbus homecoming up to Spencer.
'It's not my decision on who makes the lineup,' Brunner says. 'All I can do is go out and play hard and bring what I bring to the table.'
Playing before family and friends would be special for Brunner, who looks back fondly on his time with his home-state MLS club.
'Not a lot of people get to do that,' he says. 'I was very blessed. You get to see your friends and family, and they get to come support you for games. I learned a lot, and I'm thankful for the opportunity I had there.'
This weekend, Brunner expects to reconnect with family and friends.
'My aunt bought a lot of tickets for my family,' he says. 'I'm sure I'll see my buddies. I know I'm having dinner with my family at one point.'
If he does play, Brunner says he won't feel any extra pressure to perform.
'It's no pressure,' he says, 'just go out and enjoy it.'