Earlier this week, the Houston Dynamo started their roster re-tooling with the addition of a central defender, Eric Brunner. Brunner was acquired from the Portland Timbers in exchange for allocation money. No further details of the trade were released.
Brunner is a five year veteran in MLS, getting his start in 2008 as the 16th pick in the SuperDraft to the New York Red Bulls. He never suited up for the Red Bulls and tried a short stint with the USL club Miami FC. New York traded his rights to Columbus in 2009 and he signed a contract with the Crew.
The defender made 39 appearances for Columbus in two seasons, with 36 starts. In November of 2010, Brunner was selected by the Portland Timbers in the 2010 MLS Expansion Draft. He was the third overall pick.
He went on to anchor the Timbers backline, making 45 appearences, with 41 starts. Offensively, he contributed four goals and an assist during his time with the Timbers. In 2012, Brunner saw limited time (13 games, 10 starts) due to injury (which we'll address below).
One other thing to note - Brunner is a tall, strong defender. He's 6'4" and should fit perfectly into Houston's group of threats on set pieces.
Portland has been the most active team since the MLS roster's unfroze. With Caleb Porter taking over the club, changes were expected - and more are likely on the way.
Get To Know Our Newest Defender
Dynamo Theory reached out to Geoff Gibson, the Editor of Stumptown Footy, for some insight of who Brunner is and how he'll adapt to life in orange. Based on his comments, it seems Dynamo fans will see him regularly and learn to like him.
- I noticed he only played 13 games (10 starts) in 2012. Was Brunner injured? If so, what was the injury and has he recovered to the best of your knowledge?
Brunner was largely injured for the 2012 season, which was unfortunate because he could have really been useful. He had multiple concussions, always a worry, but by the end of 2012 he seemed to be back to full fitness.
- It looks like he was a staple in Portland's starting lineup over the course of the two seasons (injury aside). Is this a player you'd expect to compete for a starting spot in Houston or a depth addition considering the Dynamo have Jermaine Taylor and Bobby Boswell in CB role?
Yes. Eric Brunner was seen as a coup for Portland when they picked him up from Columbus in the 2010 Expansion Draft because he was seen as a young Chad Marshall. He's a strong center back who still has room to grow, but is very capable as an MLS defender. He was specifically traded from Portland because he wasn't going to get starting XI minutes here. I would bet that Kinnear is planning on starting him in 2013.
- Can Brunner play other defensive positions (LB/RB)?
No. He's a center back through and through. He's got a bit of a nose for goal though when he gets the chance.
- Anything else you can think of about Brunner that Dynamo fans should know?
He was a fan favorite here in Portland for his strong work ethic and tactically minded defending. Had David Horst not risen dramatically in the second half of 2013 for Portland, you can bet that he absolutely would not have been traded. Treat him well.
Houston's Defender Situation
With the addition of Brunner, the Dynamo now have Kofi Sarkodie, Jermaine Taylor, Bobby Boswell, and Corey Ashe as their core defense. Andre Hainault is out of contract, but Chris Canetti told us earlier this week the Dynamo wanted to bring him back.
There are several rumblings around saying Hainault is looking outside MLS and is learning towards not returning. Again, nothing solid - but something to consider.
If Brunner has been brought in with a starter role in mind, does that push Jermaine Taylor to a different spot? Is Corey Ashe the left back of choice? Ashe has been praised by the likes of Bruce Arena as one of the best left backs in MLS, yet I often hear our own fans ask for an upgrade there.
Sarkodie seems to have definitely claimed the right side of the defense, but we also have the young Warren Creavalle that showed his game is mature for such a young player.
When the trade occurred on Monday, many fans didn't know what to expect. Based on Geoff's comments, we could be looking at another masterful signing from - as Boniek Garcia has called him - "The Professor" Dominic Kinnear.
Stay tuned to Dynamo Theory - we'll have all the offseason moves in our storystream, plus give you analysis of what the moves mean to the club.