Versatile Harden earns more minutes with Quakes

Watson: "Every game he’s played this year, he's been solid."

Soccer teams need guys like Ty Harden. Well, at least successful ones do. 

The Earthquakes’ versatile defender does what it takes to win, and when he’s not on the field, stays alert and confident and ready to go when the opportunity arrives. He puts the team first. 

“Ty’s been excellent for us,” Coach Mark Watson said. “He had a tough season last year coming off basically a season-ending injury, and he’s slowly built himself back up to where he’s playing at a really high level. Every game he’s played this year, and he’s played a couple of different positions, he’s been solid. That’s what we expect of Ty.” 

The Quakes selected Harden, 30, in Stage 2 of the MLS Re-Entry Process on Dec. 14, 2012 and signed him a month later. A multi-sport athlete growing up in Oregon, he starred at the University of Washington before playing with the LA Galaxy, Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC. In high school, he was Oregon’s Class 3A Player of the Year twice and helped FC Portland Blue win four youth state championships. 

Harden sees the Earthquakes as a team ready to make its move and contend in the Western Conference.

“I definitely do,” he said. “It’s always a goal to get as many points as you can and get to the playoffs. Right now, we’re kind of taking it one game at a time. We’re just playing the game that’s in front of us. If we keep doing that all year, we’re definitely gonna make a run.” 

He added that if the team keeps its defensive shape and plays the way it’s been playing, it’s going to be in every game. 

In Saturday's 2-1 win over FC Dallas, Harden played 90 strong minutes in his fifth start of the season and 12th start overall with the Quakes, teaming in the back with Clarence Goodson, Jordan Stewart and Shaun Francis. 

Harden’s big individual moment came in a 1-1 draw at Toluca in Mexico on March 19, which the hosts won 5-4 in a shootout. He stunned the Mexican team, scoring the opening goal, and also held down the middle with rookie JJ Koval, at nearly 9,000 foot elevation. The match marked Harden’s return to competition after missing nearly a year after hip surgery. 

Watson describes Harden as a “great guy overall. He’s great in the locker room. He’s just a solid guy and a fantastic pro.” 

The Quakes defend as a team, a process that starts in the opponents’ penalty box. Harden said the forwards, midfielders and defenders all do a “really good job of getting behind the ball and being honest defensively and working hard together.” 

That group approach helps explain why the Earthquakes are always in the game, no matter who’s on the field.  

Quakes keeper Jon Busch said he’s confident in all of the team’s defenders, knowing that they are proven professionals. 

Harden echoes those sentiments, saying all the defenders do well when they get their chance, something the club prides itself on at every position. 

“We’re all ready. We’re all professional,” Harden said. “We’ve all been in the league. We all have quite a bit of experience. It’s not like we’re throwing a young guy in there. It’s guys that are proven and have done well in the league, and so we’re confident in whoever it is.” 

The team spirit is also reflected off the field as players seem to blend nicely and share a common mindset. Harden said that while the players don’t live in the same cities, they’re all “really close” at the stadium and when they’re traveling. 

“I was just commenting it’s probably the closest group that I’ve been on since I’ve been in MLS,” Harden said. “Everybody gets along great. We all know why we’re here, and we’re all here to win. That helps bring us closer too, but our personalities in the locker room ... it’s so good. It’s actually kind of unbelievable how close and friendly and competitive it is. It’s different. It’s a competitive friendliness that I haven’t seen in a lot of places. It’s a pretty cool atmosphere.” 

- Richter Media