PORTLAND, Ore. – All you had to do was put an old Kansas City Wizards kit on Jack Jewsbury, and the flashback would have been complete.
The year was 2007 when a young Jewsbury started 27 games for Kansas City at right back. Flash forward to Saturday, and Jewsbury, now the Portland Timbers captain and attacking midfielder, lined up there again in a remade lineup against the Columbus Crew at Jeld-Wen Field.
HIGHLIGHTS: Portland 0, Columbus 0
And while the Timbers weren’t quite able to cure all that ails them in a scoreless draw, there were a number of positives for a team that came into the game having lost five out of their last six.
“It’s been awhile,” said Jewsbury, who has 43 career starts at right back in his 10-year career and was Kansas City’s 2008 defensive player of the year. “Obviously this week in training, I worked out there a little bit so I got settled in. But it felt pretty good.”
First, the credit goes to Jewsbury and the entire backline, which also featured the season’s first start by Mamadou “Futty” Danso, who suffered a broken foot in the preseason. Columbus were limited to three shots on goal, and goalkeeper Troy Perkins was only needed for one save, albeit a game saver on a Josh Williams header in the 67th minute.
Most importantly, there were no late goals conceded. Portland have been snake-bitten in the final 15 minutes of games, having given up a league-leading seven goals in that span, including two last week in a 2-0 loss to Montreal.
“It’s a positive step,” said Timbers head coach John Spencer. “It’s obviously not what you hope for, but it’s a positive step.”
And while Portland didn’t exactly solve their scoring problems – their scoreless stretch is now extended to three games – the offense did seem to awaken from the malaise from the previous two games.
With Jewsbury on defense, Lovel Palmer and Diego Chara roamed the middle of the field, and Franck Songo’o and Rodney Wallace, normally an outside defender for the Timbers, played the midfield wings. That pushed Darlington Nagbe back to forward, after he spent two ineffective games out wide, alongside Kris Boyd.
“I think we were throwing numbers forward,” Jewsbury said. “We were really going for the win. I thought we created chances. If we can be a bit better with the final ball in the finish, it would have been great. But it was a solid performance and it was frustrating not to get three points.”
In the Timbers’ two previous matches against Sporting KC and Montreal, Portland created just six shots on goal. They equaled that total on Saturday. A Man of th Match performance from Columbus goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum – who had six saves, including a diving stop on a screamer from Rodney Wallace – was all that kept Portland from scoring.
“I’ve always said that we have unbelievable talent and dangerous guys going forward,” Jewsbury said. “And Franck and Rodney brought a lot of energy on the wings and created some chances. Like I said before, we’re a deep, deep team, and when guys get their chances, hopefully they step up and make the most of it, and I think guys did that tonight.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.