FanPost

Jack Jewsbury, Keepin' On

Do you remember Jack Jewsbury the captain and central midfielder, who became the Portland Timbers’ first MLS all-star in the inaugural season of 2011?

It’s hard, isn’t it? The memories of Jewsbury’s seven goals and #13 hitting Futty Danso on the free-kicks’ equivalent of a long bomb for a touchdown over the summer are quickly fading away.

Jewsbury was replaced in 2013. Will Johnson is the younger, tougher, more talented Captain Jack. Johnson took Jewsbury’s central midfield position in the lineup, took his captain’s armband, and made the old man expendable.

Of course, that’s not where the story ends with Jewsbury. The old pro just keeps reinventing himself, and reinvigorating his career, growing in stature with each passing year.

These days, Jewsbury plays fullback seamlessly. In stark contrast to Michael Harrington, who spends matches gritting his teeth and sprinting, on overlaps, on recovery runs, in 1 v. 1 play, on the opposite side of the field, Jewsbury is a picture of calm.

You can see the central midfielder in his fullback play. You rarely catch him in a dead-on run, and you rarely see him taking players on. Instead, Jewsbury stays balanced and simple, both in his positional play and play with the ball.

Jewsbury’s equilibrium allows him to cover his failing pace and shows off his ability to distribute, both on the ground and with pinpoint crosses that are among the best in MLS.

Jewsbury enters the 2014 season as the Timbers’ unquestioned starter at left-back, a feet that is impressive when you consider that Jewsbury played defense for the first time in his professional career in 2012, and only started play full-back regularly in 2013.

It seems silly that anyone of Caleb Porter’s soccer intellect would select Ryan Miller ahead of Jewsbury, but that was the plan going into the 2013 season. Miller started and was pulled from the Timbers’ first two games, in which they gave up five goals.

After the Timbers’ 2-1 loss to the Montreal Impact in the second game of last season, Jewsbury, an unused sub, reemerged about twenty minutes after the full-time whistle onto the pitch at Jeld-Wen Field with an assistant coach, and for the next half hour, hit crosses and shots in the deserted stadium.

Next week at Seattle, Jewsbury was back in the team.

Seattle has been a special matchup for Jewsbury over the years. He’s played in more derbies – 10 – than anyone else on either side of the MLS rivalry. No, Jewsbury hasn’t scored in any of those games, in which the Timbers are 4-3-3.

Instead, he’s racked up assists: He delivered the cross that set the tone of the playoff series last year, a fantastic ball after a sweeping play that Ryan Johnson headed past Marcus Hahnemann to give the Timbers’ their first ever lead in Seattle.

And it was his 40 yard cross that had Hahnemann scrambling and Kalif Alhassan smashing in the game-winning goal at Jeld-Wen last year – also, it was Jewsbury who cleared the ball off the line in the 90th minute of that game to preserve what’s possibly the Timbers’ most famous regular season victory.

In the first MLS derby between the two, at Quest Field, Jewsbury hit Futty to score Portland’s goal.

He won the penalty that Will Johnson dispatched to effectively end the playoff series last year.

He swung in the corner that Rodney Wallace poked home to salvage a draw and eventually the Cascadia Cup in 2012. It was Jewsbury, of course, who sealed that Cup with perhaps his finest ever goal at Vancouver later that year.

The handyman is a big game player.

And he’s a team player. In ego and hubris driven world of professional football, it takes a secure man to give up the armband without so much publically as a suggestion of hurt or bitterness.

Jewsbury’s step-back from the captaincy, from his preferred position – and more or less from the limelight, seeing as he hasn’t scored an MLS goal since moving to the backline – are a model for a what a captain should be.

Although his title says "club captain", Jewsbury is in reality Johnson’s vice-captain, despite the fact that Jewsbury is five years Johnson’s senior.

If anything, though, Jewsbury’s become more of a leader over the last year.

He’s compared the current Timbers to his 2004 Kansas City Wizards team that went to the MLS Cup Final.

It was Jewsbury who sent them there, with a goal in extra time of the Western Conference final.

It’s fair to say that the former Captain is in the groove in Portland, comfortable with himself, his role on the team, and his place in life.

At 32, Jewsbury has about three years left, and with Alvas Powell coming through the ranks, possibly less time as a starter.

Should the Timbers honor him in some way when he does hang up his boots? Retiring numbers is an uncommon and impractical practice in soccer, and something along the lines of a statue would be a little excessive.

But could the Timbers do something along the lines of what Fulham did when Brian McBride left, in naming their lounge after the former player?

Jewsbury was the Timbers’ first star, and the epitome of a professional. It will be interesting to see what he does with his post-playing career, but if coaching is in his future, Portland had better keep him around.

For now, he’ll be on the field this weekend in the Timbers’ last preseason game against Vancouver, and he’ll be back where he belongs – in the XI for opening day – against Philadelphia on March 8th.

See? He’ll always be Captain Jack.

Alright guys, I don't believe I have to say this but, just in case, please do not submit anything racist, homophobic, sexist or otherwise not appropriate for even the younger Timbers fans.

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