Ask Timbers supporters about Jack Jewsbury and a few phrases come up frequently. Professional. Workmanlike. Leader. Salty dog.
Without a doubt, these capture a good portion of what Jewsbury brings to the Timbers. For three years, Jack has given steely professionalism and quiet leadership to a club that until 2013 struggled to consistently produce a product on the field that matched Jewsbury’s demeanor.
The Timbers made Jewsbury club captain because, in the words of Timbers General Manager Gavin Wilkinson, “He’s a guy we label as a quality player and person . . . It’s the whole picture, to be honest.” Asked if this is what the Timbers had in mind when they targeted Jewsbury back in the winter of 2011, Wilkinson was unequivocal. “One-hundred percent, yes. It took a lot to get him from Kansas.”
For Wilkinson, the club captaincy comes down to Jewsbury’s consistency – not just on the field in games, but also in the locker room, in training, and in the community as a representative of the club. All of that, Wilkinson says, adds up to Jewsbury capturing the “ethos” of the club.
2013 was a year of tremendous change, growth, and success on Morrison Street. As difficult as 2012 was for the Timbers, the successes of the past year have been equally satisfying, with the team winning the Western Conference and earning a berth into the CONCACAF Champions League.
Amidst the Timbers’ transformation, the focus naturally turned to what was new at Jeld-Wen Field – Caleb Porter and his coaching philosophy, Will Johnson, Diego Valeri, and a confident Darlington Nagbe. And for good reason – the changes that took place were a huge part of what allowed the Timbers to flip the script in 2013.
Jewsbury, however, has been something of a North Star on the Timbers’ odyssey to the MLS elite – the one constant in a voyage that has produced any number of challenges, failures, and triumphs. In the wake of so much change, however, this offseason provides a good opportunity to step back and reconsider Jack’s legacy. In doing so, it becomes clear that is perhaps time add one more word to the Jewsbury lexicon – Legend.
Over the course of the Timbers’ three years in MLS, nobody has loomed larger in big moments than Jack Jewsbury. For a player who has been shuffled from one unglamorous position to the next, Jewsbury has demonstrated an uncanny ability to be the man to step up when the club needs to take a step forward. And in that respect, perhaps nobody around PTFC has fingerprints on as much green and gold magic as the old Wizard.
Following a rough road to start 2011 that had many questioning whether the Timbers were ready for primetime, Portland captured some lightning in a bottle in April and May, earning a surprising 5-2-2 record over those two months. In that stretch, which was catalyzed by the captain scoring the goal to earn the club’s first MLS point in New England, Jewsbury was far and away the most effective player for the upstart Timbers, logging 3 goals and 5 assists from central midfield in eight torrid weeks that launched him to a deserved All-Star selection. While the Timbers would fade in 2011, it was this stretch fueled by Jewsbury that put Portland in the playoff hunt and set the bar for 2012.
It was a bar, however, that the club would sail under the next year, as everything that could go wrong seemingly did go wrong for the Timbers in 2012. Portland floundered in the league, crashed out of the U.S. Open Cup in spectacular fashion, and found itself in search of a new coach and a new direction by July.
The lone major highlight, however, was capturing the Cascadia Cup, an accomplishment that signaled the beginning of a momentum shift on Morrison Street. Having squandered two prior opportunities to secure the Cup, the Timbers went north to Vancouver on October 21st needing to win or see the Cup retained by Seattle. There, in the 38th minute, Jewsbury flashed his affinity for big moments, striking a Franck Songo’o lay off from 35 yards into the far corner to bring the Cup home. After noting the extensive difficulties of 2012, Wilkinson said simply, “You look at the goal versus Vancouver, and it helped change the tide a little bit.”
While a nearly impossible schedule sent the Cup far to the north in 2013, Jewsbury found a way to make an even bigger impact this past year. After the Timbers qualified for the playoffs and drew a conference semifinal matchup with Seattle, it was Jewsbury who stepped up and became the undeniable series MVP. In the first leg in the Emerald City, it was Jack’s run up the right touchline and gem of a cross to Ryan Johnson at the near post that put Portland on the board early. Later, it was the captain emeritus’s run in the second half that stretched Seattle’s defense to permit Kalif Alhassan’s entry pass to Nagbe for the crucial second. In the return leg, Jewsbury drew the penalty that permitted the opener with a deft touch that would have put him into space had it not deflected off Djimi Traore’s arm. Fifteen minutes later, a Jewbsury run up the right had the Sounders defense rushing out to greet him again before he squared the ball for Rodney Wallace at the top of the box to play to Valeri for the score. Of the five goals scored against the Sounders, Jewsbury was intimately involved in four.
A validating early season run, a sea-changing Cup victory, and a near-rapture-inducing playoff triumph – all in no small part because of Jack Jewsbury.
In between, as Wilkinson noted, Jewsbury has contributed largely solid, reliable minutes at many positions – from both outsides of the defense, to the defensive midfield, to as a box-to-box central midfielder. Without a doubt, Jewsbury adds little dynamism to positions that rarely call for it. Indeed, Jack has gone long stretches of time without appearing on the scoresheet or in the postgame recap. But when the Timbers most needed somebody to step into a position of weakness, Jack answered the call, capably stepping into unnatural spots when called upon to do so for the sake of the team.
“It’s not always the glamor moments,” Wilkinson noted of Jewsbury, “but he ticks nearly all of the boxes.”
Thus, while Captain Jack’s reputation as a quiet leader, hard worker, and versatile player ready and willing to see duty anywhere on the field is accurate, it’s also incomplete. One of the boxes Wilkinson alluded to, it turns out, is the capacity to turn up at the moments when his club needs him the most. And that’s what makes Jack Jewsbury much more than a good professional, hard worker, and strong leader.
It’s what makes him a legend.
Onward, Rose City!