PORTLAND — Mikael Silvestre went through his first full practice on Thursday as a member of the Portland Timbers.
Come Sunday he figures to be in the middle of the defense when the Timbers kick off the Major League Soccer season against the New York Red Bulls at Jeld-Wen Field.
For a less experienced player, such a quick turnaround might create uncertainty. But Silvestre has played on some of soccer’s biggest stages with some of its most storied clubs, so the 35-year-old Frenchman isn’t intimidated by this challenge.
“I’m glad in the end I’m here and ready to compete on Sunday,” Silvestre said.
“For me, preseason started in September when I was back in the UK training with Manchester United.”
As a center back and left back, Silvestre (6-feet, 190 pounds) played in more than 350 matches over nine seasons with Manchester United. His last impact season there was 2005-06, when he appeared in 48 matches.
He last played for Werder Bremen in Germany’s top league in the 2010-11 season, and became a free agent at the end of the 2011-12 German season.
Silvestre, who spent time with both the Timbers and the Sounders during preseason, said he has been eyeing Major League Soccer for several years.
“Finally, that dream came true,” he said.
The Timbers, who signed the veteran to a two-year contract, believe Silvestre will bring value on the field and as a leader in the locker room. With preseason injuries to David Horst and Hanyer Mosquera, Portland needed help in the middle of its defense.
The player who figures to stand alongside Silvestre in Sunday’s opener is 20-year-old Andrew Jean-Baptiste, who played in all of five games as a MLS rookie last season (and scored his only goal in the season opener).
Jean-Baptiste and Silvestre were paired on defense in two preseason games at Tucson, and Jean-Baptiste said having Silvestre beside him added to his already growing confidence.
“He’s going to help prevent me from doing anything that I shouldn’t do,” Jean-Baptiste said.
Silvestre also will push the 6-2, 205-pound second-year pro to make his presence felt.
“He said I’ve got to be a bulldog,” Jean-Baptiste said. “And if that’s what I have to do to keep a good backline and play well and stay in the starting lineup, then I’m going to do it.”
NOTES — Jack Jewsbury has returned to training after missing much of the preseason with a hamstring injury, but will not play on Sunday. Coach Caleb Porter said Jewsbury is completely healed, but not match ready.
As of mid-day Friday a small number of tickets remain for Sunday’s game.