PORTLAND, Ore. — This isn’t the club that Jack Jewsbury remembers.
The Portland Timbers All-Star midfielder will suit up against Kansas City in KC for the first time in his career on Wednesday night when the Timbers travel to Sporting Kansas City (8:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online). Before moving to the Pacific Northwest, Jewsbury spent his first eight MLS seasons in the City of Fountains.
But from the name on the front of their jerseys to the stadium in which KC play, things have changed.
Jewsbury was traded to Portland before the rebranding effort that gave rise to Kansas City’s new identity as Sporting. He remembers the days when they played at the cavernous Arrowhead Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, and the minor-league baseball field CommunityAmerica Ballpark. These days, SKC have a home to call their own.
“The last year, year and half there, with the buzz around the community with the new stadium opening, from that standpoint it’s going to be exciting to see what came of it,” Jewsbury said of Livestrong Park, a facility that opened on June 9. “I’ve only heard good things, and I’m excited for that.”
There will still be signs of home, however, as Jewsbury reunites with a host of friends and family. He grew up in nearby Springfield, Mo., and starred at soccer powerhouse St. Louis University.
He said it will be especially rewarding to see family who were affected by the spring tornado that devastated his birthplace of Joplin, Mo. Jewsbury was honored this month by MLS for his fundraising efforts to help with rebuilding. Jewsbury’s uncle lost a truck supply business in the storm and a number of other relatives were affected as well.
“My dad, he goes there pretty regularly to check in and help out,” Jewsbury said. “It’s definitely rebuilding and slowly getting back to normalcy. … It’s still tough times, though. A few of the family members will be coming to the game from Joplin. It will be good to see them and catch up.”
The excitement surrounding the match for Jewsbury comes at yet another crucial moment for the Timbers. Their 2-1 loss to the Houston Dynamo on Sunday snapped a three-game unbeaten streak, but more pressing is Portland’s playoff positioning — seventh place in the wildcard standings with 26 points from 23 games. The road has not been kind to the Timbers, either, as they have compiled one of the league’s worst away records at 1-7-3. The team traveled directly to Kansas City on Monday from Houston.
Before Sporting’s 2-0 loss Saturday against Seattle, they had enjoyed a five-game unbeaten streak. They’re looking to break a tie with D.C. United for fifth place — 30 points from 23 games — in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s a big game, especially at this point of the season,” Jewsbury said. “I think if we continue to play hard and create chances then we’ll have a good chance to get three points.”