The Forecast lands in Portland to discuss Jewsbury's influential role with John Spencer's side before it previews the Week 27 fixture list.
PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland coach John Spencer identified Jack Jewsbury as a potential addition well before the veteran midfielder actually arrived in Stumptown.
Spencer and Timbers general manager and technical director Gavin Wilkinson even initiated discussions with Sporting Kansas City about acquiring Jewsbury's services prior to the expansion draft last November as they sought to acquire the necessary building blocks for their new team. Sporting manager Peter Vermes rebuffed the advances at the time as he sorted through his squad before the upcoming season, but Spencer and the Timbers never relinquished the fight.
It took several months and an amiable, but frank, preseason meeting between the Sporting technical staff and Jewsbury about his potential role in 2011 to pave the way for a move, but the Timbers finally landed their man on March 1 in exchange for an undisclosed amount of allocation money.
“We were persistent with him,” Spencer said after the Timbers wrapped up their training session on Thursday morning ahead of Friday's date with New England. “To be fair, Peter was very honest and up front with us and said it would take some time. Eventually, we got a hold of him. He was a great addition. I think a few eyebrows were raised about why we made him captain in such a short space of time, but I think it's proven to be a decent choice.”
Few observers would argue otherwise given Jewsbury's influential and pervasive place within this young Timbers side. The 30-year-old attacks his role in central midfield with ample industry and little fuss. As a complement to his usually straightforward and tidy work on the ball, Jewsbury cajoles and organizes his teammates to make sure the Timbers retain their defensive shape and send numbers forward at the appropriate points.
It is exactly the set of consistent and critical responsibilities Jewsbury said he wanted to bear as he left Kansas City. Instead of serving as the versatile piece that slotted into the lineup based upon the needs of that particular game, Jewsbury has transformed into a central fixture for a side in need of his guidance in the center of the park.
“When I first came here, coach made it pretty clear when we sat down,” Jewsbury said. “We talked (and he said) that we are a young team, there would be some ups and downs throughout the season and (I had to) try to level it out as much as I can with my experience and leadership in the middle of the field. Like we thought, there have been some ups and downs.”
In addition to attempting to keep his side on an even keel through its tumultuous expansion season and performing the other typical duties of a captain, Jewsbury has also assumed a somewhat unexpected duty: set piece maestro. Jewsbury has claimed his first All-Star berth and posted career highs in goals (7) and assists (8) due in large part to his ability to hit an accurate and tempting ball with his right foot and slide into the correct spot to have a lash if the play breaks down.
“He's done great,” Portland defender Eric Brunner said. “He has, what, eight assists this year? It just proves that he hits a good ball in. It's just trying to get into the right positions. Sometimes, it's not where you're making your run, but he's putting it into a dangerous spot the entire time. That's all you can ask for. The rest is up to us. It's been great to be able to get on the end of those.”
Jewsbury, as one would expect from a captain, deflects much of the credit onto his teammates for his personal success this season. The focus in Portland these days rests solely on chasing a playoff berth rather than individual goals, but that pursuit does not obscure the conclusion that Portland's persistence in one of its primary offseason endeavors – and Jewsbury's ability to meet the expectations set forth by his new side after falling into a peripheral role after eight seasons in Kansas City – has played a vital part in the Timbers' success so far this season.
“The spine of your team, you always hope it's your strongest, most experienced part of the team,” Spencer said. “He's come in there and solidified that space for us in the central area. I think he's helped Diego (Chara) settle in and find his feet as well. He's been a very, very good captain for us.”
Last week: 1/9 (11%)
For the season: 77/208 (37%)
New England @ Portland – 11:00p.m. (FOX Soccer)“We looked a little bit more mature as a team,” Portland coach John Spencer said about the Timbers' 0-0 draw in Philadelphia last weekend and what it showed about their impending push for a postseason berth. “We didn't play particularly well. At this time of the year when the prizes are on the line and the playoff positions are on the line, it comes down to getting the results first and foremost. Performance is second. It'd be nice if we can go out and win every game with a lot of style and flair, but, for us, it's all about getting points and getting a chance to get into the playoffs this year.
Prediction: Portland win.
SaturdayColorado @ Toronto FC – 1:00p.m. (TSN)
Who would have thought TFC could travel to Crew Stadium and thump the Crew last weekend? It may prove too little, too late for the Reds' playoff hopes, but Aron Winter's side has shown signs of life in recent weeks. TFC's midweek Champions League exertions in Mexico will no doubt play some role in Winter's team selection. Colorado can hardly claim fatigue as a concern after its dismal home showing against Santos Laguna, but Rapids boss Gary Smith rested a few of his regulars ahead of this tie and will look to his defense to provide the solid foundation required to pick up a result here.
Chivas USA @ Chicago – 4:00p.m. (Telefutura)
The Red-and-White's defensive solidarity will probably benefit from David Junior Lopes' one-match ban, but Robin Fraser's side could really use Heath Pearce (hamstring) to rectify its problems in the central defense. Chicago coach Frank Klopas must replace the suspended Dan Gargan at the back and may also amend his lineup in other ways in response to the 2-0 defeat at San Jose. Those changes could alter the course of the evening, but this match feels like a stalemate waiting to happen.
Columbus @ Philadelphia – 7:30p.m.
Things aren't exactly looking up in Columbus these days even after securing an unexpected 2-2 draw against Houston on Wednesday. Crew coach Robert Warzycha will have to name a starting XI at PPL Park without key cogs Emmanuel Ekpo (one-match ban), Eddie Gaven (right lower leg contusion) and Emilio Renteria (concussion) included. To cap off the misery, Chad Marshall (hip) may or may not play after departing at halftime in midweek. No wonder why the Crew's form has taken such a noticeable dip in recent weeks. Philadelphia hasn't won in eight matches since July 17 and suffered through a bland 0-0 draw at home against Portland on Saturday, but this match presents an ideal opportunity to slide the playoff pursuit back on track.
Prediction: Philadelphia win.
San Jose @ Houston – 8:30p.m.
Earthquakes boss Frank Yallop expressed relief after a 2-0 victory over Chicago on Saturday ended a 13-match winless drought, but that respite may only last for a brief period with this difficult trip to Houston on tap. Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear will have Carlo Costly available after he sat out Wednesday's discouraging 2-2 draw against 10-man Columbus through suspension. Costly's return won't eliminate the need to determine whether Brian Ching (left adductor strain) will feature. Houston could really use Ching for at least a portion of the match and the former U.S. national team striker told the Houston Chronicle he hoped to play a part, but it should still have enough in the tank to sustain its laudable home record (8-3-3) against the Earthquakes even if he does not.
Prediction: Houston win.
New York @ FC Dallas – 8:30p.m.
Injuries and suspensions dominate the pre-match buildup here as both coaches will have to omit several regulars. FCD coach Schellas Hyndman – fresh off that 1-1 draw with Tauro FC (Panama) in CONCACAF Champions League play in midweek – must shuffle his pack without Marvin Chavez (right ankle sprain), Bruno Guarda (left ankle injury) and Brek Shea (one-match ban), while New York coach Hans Backe must construct a new back four with Roy Miller (right adductor strain) and Jan Gunnar Solli (one-match suspension) unavailable and Tim Ream (lower leg contusion) listed as questionable. Not even the out-of-sorts Rafa Marquez (one-match suspension) can offer a fallback option in central defense for the tattered Red Bulls. In this battle of the fatigued versus the wounded, the edge falls to the side possessing some semblance of form at the moment.
Prediction: FC Dallas win.
D.C. United @ Seattle – 9:00p.m.
United starts the post-Pontius period with a quick trip from their temporary base in Los Angeles to CenturyLink Field. Santino Quaranta (or Austin da Luz) appears the most likely choice to replace the injured Pontius on the left flank as Ben Olsen attempts to find some way to replace the winger's production, while Seattle boss Sigi Schmid must alter his plans with Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Servando Carrasco suspended and Erik Friberg (right hip flexor strain) questionable after his early withdrawal last weekend. Patrick Ianni will almost certainly return to the starting XI in Hurtado's place, but Schmid will have to weigh his midfield options carefully after the successful and somewhat grueling midweek travails in Costa Rica. Expect a entertaining and free-flowing affair from these two sides, but the edge goes to Sounders FC at home with a playoff berth potentially on the line.
Prediction: Seattle win.
Sporting Kansas City @ Real Salt Lake – 9:00p.m.
Sporting manager Peter Vermes must grapple with a few selection concerns – one example: should Aurelien Collin and Kei Kamara return to the starting XI? – as the visitors hope to sustain the momentum generated by a 3-0 home win over Houston last weekend. RSL boss Jason Kreis must make a change at left back with Tony Beltran suspended (Blake Wagner loons as the probable choice with Chris Wingert still sidelined), but the Claret-and-Cobalt look set to slow down the tempo of the game in possession and snatch all three points here.
Prediction: Real Salt Lake win.
Vancouver @ Los Angeles – 10:30p.m.
While the Whitecaps' form has improved in recent matches (example one: a 1-1 draw at struggling New York on Saturday), it has not perked up to the point where the visitors can reasonably expect to pick up points against the modestly fatigued Supporters' Shield chasers at the Home Depot Center.
Prediction: Los Angeles win.
Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes opinion pieces during the week for Goal.com. He also covers the New England Revolution for the Boston Herald and MLSsoccer.com. Contact him with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter by clicking here.