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Captain Jack: Timbers leader relishes his role

Coming via trade means he's here to perform, not sit
by: MICHAEL MARTIN Portland Timbers captain Jack Jewsbury sees Quincy Amarikwa of the Colorado Rapids get past him in the Timbers’ 3-1 loss last week at Dicks Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo.

On a cold, gray day in the middle of March, Jack Jewsbury stood just off the Delta Park pitch after a Portland Timbers practice. In just a short-sleeve uniform, Jewsbury answered media questions for more than half an hour. Toward the end of the questioning, as rain sprinkled down upon him, Jewsbury's teeth began chattering.

Twenty minutes later, after he emerged from the locker room dressed in jeans and a hooded sweatshirt, Jewsbury dutifully stood in front of a TV camera to do yet another interview.

'I'm still cold,' Jewsbury admitted.

As he answered questions, Jewsbury seemed to posses an inherent knowledge of what being the Timbers captain entails.

Jewsbury was in Timbers camp less than two weeks before coach John Spencer decided the eight-season veteran of Sporting Kansas City would wear the captain's armband during Portland's inaugural MLS campaign.

'I like him,' Spencer says. 'He's a good leader, he has good experience. He's been around the block. He's a very good candidate, a very good speaker, and he has the respect of the guys right away.'

Growing up, Jewsbury was a captain when he played club soccer. But it has been a long time since that responsibility fell on him. His personality and demeanor would indicate that he is perfectly suited for the role.

'I'm pretty easy-going,' he says. 'Outside the locker room, I'm a fairly nice guy. But whenever I step on the field, it's time to get going. Guys can kind of read that in me. I've always had leadership capabilities.'

As a youngster in Missouri, Jewsbury played baseball, basketball and soccer. Once he got to high school, he began focusing on soccer.

'The decision had to come in high school, what are you going to stick to? Because the parents couldn't drive me all over the place,' Jewsbury says.

The decision was made easier for Jewsbury not only because he had the most talent in soccer but also because he liked it more than the other sports.

'I enjoy that it's kind of a constant, fluid movement,' he says. 'The choppiness of some other sports, I can't really handle. I just love the game, especially now, being in the league for nine years, it's just a part of my life, so it's great.'

After high school, Jewsbury went to Saint Louis University. He finished 10th on the Billikens' all-time scoring list with 38 goals and 25 assists. In 2009, he was named to the men's soccer all-half century team. In 2011, he was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame.

Off and on throughout college, Jewsbury dated his future wife Brittany. They first went out during his senior year of high school.

Four years ago, the couple married. In May, their daughter Aubrey will celebrate her second birthday.

'You could say (Brittany and I) are high school sweethearts,' Jewsbury says, smiling. 'That would be good.'

Jewsbury, who will turn 30 on April 13, says he wishes that he could wear his wedding ring during MLS matches, but not necessarily to show female soccer fans that he is taken.

'They really don't allow you to (wear a ring),' he says. 'You've got to tape it up. But if I could get away with it I probably would. Just because it's hard and, you know, (you could) chip (an opposing player's) tooth.'

Jewsbury's professional career has been solid, though not overly impressive.

After Kansas City drafted him in the fifth round with the 43rd overall pick in 2003, Jewsbury appeared in only two matches. Then he began making his way into the starting lineup. In 2008, he started 29 matches and collected seven assists, including three match-winners. Last season, he started 28 matches and had five assists.

Growing up, Jewsbury was a striker and a goal scorer. In college, he made the transition to attacking midfielder. In the MLS, he became a two-way, box-to-box midfielder.

'I've played different roles,' he says. 'I'm a hardworking guy, I'm a fit guy who will go 90 minutes for you. I have a good sense in front of the goal. I have some distance and power or just placement. I'd like to think I'm just a pretty consistent solid guy in any role.'

Earlier this year, the 6-0, 185-pounder made it clear to Sporting Kansas City management that he wanted to continue as a starter.

'I made it very particular that I wanted to be in the starting 11 and if that wasn't the case, then maybe it's time for me to move elsewhere,' he says.

When the Timbers showed interest, Kansas City traded him to Portland in return for allocation money (the league allocates money to each team, including expansion teams, for them to use in acquiring players).

Spencer says that just the fact that the Timbers traded for Jewsbury means he is expected to perform on the pitch.

'Yeah, he's captain, he has added responsibility,' Spencer says. 'But he also has the responsibility that we traded for him. He's here to play, not sit on the sidelines.'

Jewsbury embraces the pressure to perform. He had one of the better showings on the team in its 3-1 opening loss last week at Colorado. And he says he is ready for the second of 34 regular-season games, Saturday at Toronto, one of the lower-echelon teams in the league. Toronto lost 4-2 last week at expansion Vancouver.

'For me, I put pressure on myself game-in, game-out to be the best player possible and be consistent every weekend,' Jewsbury says. 'Is there more pressure being the captain? Maybe. As a leader of this group, the results we have are going to fall somewhat on me, and I'm sure I'll get a lot of questions about it.'