BEAVERTON, Ore. — Not long ago, the central defender position looked like the deepest on the Portland Timbers roster.
The season-ending injury to David Horst and the departure of Hanyer Mosquera — granted an indefinite leave of absence from the team last month — mean the Timbers have only four healthy centerbacks on the roster.
The list includes rookie Dylan Tucker-Gangnes and veteran Footy Danso, neither of whom looked to be lineup regulars when this season started.
Still, Timbers coach Caleb Porter said following Tuesday’s practice that the Timbers aren’t looking to add another center back to the roster.
“I think right now we feel like we still have enough depth,” Porter said, pointing out that his team blanked Houston on Saturday with Andrew Jean-Baptiste playing most of the match alongside Mikael Silvestre.
A second-year player out of Connecticut, the 20-year-old Jean-Baptiste started the first four games of this season and came on in the 13th minute of Saturday’s 2-0 win against Houston when Horst crumpled to the ground with a broken right leg.
That injury was a cruel turn of events for Horst. The 27-year-old had recovered from a preseason injury to play the full game at Colorado on March 30 and looked to be establishing himself as a starter. Last year, Horst played every minute in 20 of the Timbers final 22 games after rehabilitating from hip surgery between the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
Porter, whose own playing career was cut short by knee injuries, said he spoke with Horst at length before his surgery on Monday.
“He’s a fighter. He wants to be on the field. He loves this club,” Porter said of Horst. “He fought hard to get back healthy to play.
“What I told him was, ‘Just keep doing what you do. You’re good because you’re a fighter. You’ve made it to this level because of that. And this is just another little thing you’ve got to get through.’
“I told him, it just makes you hungrier and it makes it sweeter when you get back and you get healthy again.”
While Horst is expected to miss the rest of this season, Diego Valeri hopes to return for Sunday’s home match against San Jose — though he must clear a set of tests required by Major League Soccer after a player leaves a game with a head injury.
“He feels good,” Porter said of Valeri. “He wants to train. He’s ready to train. He has no hangover effect from it. But we have to follow a protocol.”
The coach said he hopes Valeri is cleared to play against San Jose, but could not offer any insight on the probability “because I am not a doctor or a trainer.”
Valeri took an elbow under his right eye from Houston defender Jermaine Taylor during Saturday’s first half and was unable to continue. A foul was called, but Taylor did not receive a yellow card from referee Ricardo Salazar.
Porter on Tuesday said that he has no problem with that decision.
“(Taylor) definitely had his elbows up, but he wasn’t swinging his elbow. You go up for a header, you have your elbows up. It’s what everybody does,” Porter said. “It just so happens that Valeri ran into his elbow and got hit the wrong way.
“But I don’t question the call. I don’t question Taylor on the play whatsoever.”