Way back on March 1, just a couple of weeks before the start of the regular season, the Portland Timbers coaxed Jack Jewsbury away from Sporting Kansas City. Days later he captained his new team to a 2-0 defeat of the Seattle Sounders and promptly ended the debate - among the coaching staff, at least - over who would end up wearing the armband for the Timbers in 2011.
Captain Jack, as it turned out, was exactly what the team needed, especially during the first half of the season. During the season's tenuous first months he provided the quality and leadership on the field that helped a fledgling squad keep their spirits afloat with a string of wins at home. His set-pieces were responsible for way too many of the goals we were getting at that point in the season, clearly demonstrating that without him, the team would have been in terrible trouble. His selection to the All Star Team was well deserved. (More after the jump.)
So it's a valid question we ask today: should Jack Jewsbury return as the Timbers' captain in 2012? If not, who (among current squad members) should replace him?
Before we get into it, here's a rundown of three qualities we think are required for captaincy.
- Quality of play is the most important -- at best he should lead by example; at the very least he needs to be good enough to be on the pitch for the full 90 every match.
- Leadership -- basically, a captain needs to be a coach on the field -- be vocal and confident and command the respect of teammates, opponents and officials alike.
- PR savvy -- the captain needs to be the players' spokesman, the guy who answers questions from the media after every match, regardless of the result.
Top Five Candidates
Jack Jewsbury: the incumbent would be anybody's top choice for the job if leadership and public relations abilities were the only qualifications. The only question is whether he'll continue to be an everyday starter in 2012.
Eric Brunner: having performed admirably in the role twice in 2011, he's our second candidate. His improvement as a leader on the back line helped turn the season around, and his PR savvy has been on display on Humane Society billboards throughout the city.
Troy Perkins: he wore the armband once this season. He's got a handsome southern accent that reporters love listening to. Barring injury, there's little question that he'll be our everyday keeper in 2012. But leadership is tough for a player to exert when he's stuck back in the penalty area.
Mike Chabala: it's hard to distinguish him from John Spencer on the training pitch, and he's vocal and confident on the playing field and with the media. The main question is his everyday position in the starting XI, with two young challengers waiting in the wings.
Futty Danso: the fans would love it if the 28-year-old defender became captain, but there are definite question marks on his hamstring, leadership ability and the amount time he'll spend with his national team.
Our pick: Jack Jewsbury.
Even though his quality of play seemed to diminish (at least partially due to an injury that required surgery after the season's end), we still think his presence and leadership in the middle of the pitch were crucial to the Timbers' success for the duration of the season. He finished every match that he started, something no other outfield player can claim, and only Eric Brunner logged more minutes (just five more) than Jewsbury. Unless a new acquisition usurps his place in the starting lineup, he deserves another go in 2012. (Brunner is a close second.)
What do you think? Is there anybody else we should have included as a candidate?