Jack Jewsbury lauded by teammates as he calls time on 14-year career

MLS Cup final - Jack Jewsbury

BEAVERTON, Ore. — There were chants of “One more year!” from the audience at The Nines Hotel in Portland on Sunday when Jack Jewsbury announced that 2016 will be his final season playing professional soccer.

The 35-year-old Timbers midfielder came to that decision around midseason, telling coach Caleb Porter and club management that his 14th season in Major League Soccer will be his last. He figured that the club’s annual Stand Together banquet — an event for sponsors and supporters of the Timbers community outreach programs — would be the best time to make his retirement public.

“Sometimes it becomes more about being able to leave when you’re still able to contribute on the field. Instead of them trying to push you out the door, you kind of do it on your own terms. I think for me the timing made sense,” Jewsbury said following Tuesday’s training session.

Jewsbury entered MLS in 2003, the 43rd pick in the SuperDraft out of St. Louis University. In his second season he started for Kansas City in the MLS Cup final and helped the Wizards win a US Open Cup title. He spent eight seasons with Kansas City before he was traded to Portland during the 2011 preseason and became the MLS club’s first team captain.

“I wasn’t some highly sought-after player coming out of college,” Jewsbury said. “To be able to have a 14-year professional career is satisfying. I think last year especially.”

Last year, of course, saw the Timbers win MLS Cup.

“For me to be able to do that, especially in this city, is extra special,” said Jewsbury, who played in all six 2015 playoff matches. “And I think it probably made me a little more at ease about stepping away from the game at the end of this year.”

Jewsbury ranks 10th in MLS history with 348 matches played, plus 19 playoff matches. He said no one thing led to his decision. His MLS contract is up at the end of 2016.

As for what comes next, Jewsbury indicated he might have interest in the business side of soccer and said he has had “initial conversations” with Timbers owner Merritt Paulson about his future.

“But right now both parties are focused on the task at hand, and right now that’s finishing the season strong and trying to repeat with another MLS Cup,” Jewsbury said.

Porter said the decision to retire while he is still a valuable contributor reflects Jewsbury’s professionalism.

“To be honest with you, he could continue playing. He’s a starting player for us now. He’s playing one of his biggest roles since I’ve been here,” Porter said. Jewsbury has started the last seven matches in midfield alongside Diego Chara.

“He always puts the team first. He hasn’t always played. Never complained. Was always ready. When you call upon him he gets the job done," Porter said. "This last year he’s played a massive role for us and he’ll continue in the postseason.”

At Sunday’s banquet, teammates talked about Jewsbury’s ability to pull the team together and to lift spirits even when he was not in the lineup.

Darlington Nagbe teared up while telling the audience about Jewsbury’s impact on him.

“As Nat [Borchers] said, [you are] a perfect example as a man, as a father, as a teammate. I never pictured a Timbers team without you. I’m lucky, I’m blessed to have played all this years with you," Nagbe said. "And I know you’re going to come back next year during playoff time like Landon Donovan.”  

That line got a big laugh, but Jewsbury insisted that won’t happen.

“When I think back on my career, I feel good about everything that I’ve done and the way I’ve gone about it,” Jewsbury said. “For me, I don’t think coming back would really make sense. Once I take that next step I want to fully dive into that and put everything I have into that position, wherever that may be.”