BEAVERTON, Ore. – When Jack Jewsbury reported for his 12th MLS season earlier this year, he joked that as he gets older it seems there’s always a younger, faster player nipping at his heels, trying to take his spot.
Even if that’s the case this year, the 33-year-old Jewsbury has managed once again to not only hang onto a starting position but also play a big role as a leader for the Portland Timbers, a team he joined four years ago for their inaugural MLS season. And on Sunday, in Portland’s 3-2 away win over the Montreal Impact, Jewsbury’s 90-minute shift at right back represented his 300th career MLS appearance, making him just one of 26 players to reach such a milestone.
“I knew it was a big accomplishment to get to that number, but at the end of the day I didn’t exactly know who was in there,” Jewsbury said after the team’s Wednesday training session as he looks to make it appearance No. 301 on Saturday at the LA Galaxy (2:30 pm ET, NBCSN, stream on NBCSports.com). “So yeah, it’s definitely some good company in there and something that I’m proud to be a part of.”
Jewsbury’s role on the field may be different these days – having shifted from central midfield to outside back with the arrival of head coach Caleb Porter at the start of last season – but his impact as a steady, veteran force can’t be understated, and Porter said as much when he took over the team last seaosn.
Another one of Porter’s key acquisitions was bringing aboard Will Johnson to take Jewsbury’s spot in central midfield and as team captain. But Porter also named Jewsbury the “club captain,” an ode to what he still meant to the locker room even if he couldn’t play a central role on the field any longer, and not long into the season realized his value as an everyday starter along the backline.
“The No. 1 thing that always comes to my mind with Jack is that he’s stuck around in this league,” Johnson said earlier this season. “With all these young guys coming in, somehow he’s always around, he’s always on the field and he’s always making plays. And there’s a reason why, no matter who his coach has been, that he’s in the lineup the majority of the time and he’s making plays. It’s just because who he is, he’s reliable, he’s smart, he’s a veteran, he’s a great guy in the locker room, both on and off the field for us, and we’re fortunate to have him here.”
And even though 20-year-old Jamaican international Alvas Powell is the player nipping at Jewsbury’s heels this year, he’s still managed to prove valuable enough to make 16 appearances, 15 of which have been starts, and record two assists, one more than he did last season in 26 starts.
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“He’s in an elite group of guys,” Porter said after the game. “… What’s nice is it’s a win. If we lose that game, I don’t think he cares if it’s his 300th game. When you make it a win, then now it becomes more memorable and he’ll remember the 300th game because we won the game on the road.”
And while the numbers say it was indeed a long time ago when a young Jewsbury made his debut in 2003 with the then-Kansas City Wizards, where he spent eight seasons before an offseason trade brought him to the Rose City in 2011, he said it’s gone by in a flash. But now it’s onto the next game – and more importantly, the next season.
“I said it after the game it doesn’t feel like it was that long ago that I got my first start,” he said. “And I remember it crystal clear, so it does go by fast but at the same time, for me, it’s about moving forward. We have a lot of key games coming up. It was a nice one to get under your belt, but it’s done now.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.