PORTLAND, Ore. – As Jack Jewsbury lined up the shot that would ultimately keep the Portland Timbers from losing their sixth straight game Sunday afternoon against FC Dallas, the team captain wasn’t thinking about all the club’s previous failures.
The Timbers’ well-documented struggles with finishing chances didn’t even cross his mind.
All he thought about as a punch-out by FCD goalkeeper Kevin Hartman sailed high through the air was boot meeting ball.
It worked. Jewsbury smashed the ball home from 25 yards out, ripping a left-footed volley for a much-needed goal and a 1-1 tie to the Timbers’ losing streak.
“It’s just one of those where it just pops up in the air, and I’m trying to concentrate as much as I can as it falls down and make solid contact,” Jewsbury said of his 79th-minute savior. “Sometimes on the easier, clear-cut chances the more you think [the worse you strike the ball]. And when you just react and let your instincts take over, sometimes they do [go in].”
HIGHLIGHTS: POR vs DAL
Jewsbury’s goal, just his second of the current campaign after a career-high seven in an All-Star season last year, came at a pivotal time. The Timbers are all but out of the playoffs, but are trying to build momentum down the stretch in the wake of John Spencer’s dismissal as head coach.
“For us, it’s building off two positive performances. Points-wise, yeah we didn’t get what we wanted out of them,” Jewsbury said. “But if you look back to the games, the team as a whole fought, battled, created chances and defensively maybe we’re a little bit more organized than we were earlier in the year. So there’s definitely some positives to take, and now it’s about turning those positives into three points.”
And amidst all the turmoil, Jewsbury is also taking on yet another new role with the team.
After starting the year as an attacking midfielder, Jewsbury briefly switched to defense at right back. Now, he’s back at midfield but in a more defensive role.
“For Jack, I think it’s tremendous,” interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson said of his goal. “He’s taken on a new role with this team since we’ve changed a few things. He’s sitting back a little bit more to free up [midfielder] Diego Chara, and he’s done it with tremendous maturity and he’s been very productive. It’s not all roses and such because we’re still not getting the wins.
"But we’re seeing enough positives in the way we’re trying to play and the changes that are happening. We’re starting to believe the tide is turning.”
And regardless of what position he plays or how bad his team is struggling, Jewsbury said getting a goal is a good feeling. And the always humble Jewsbury is never one to pat himself on the back, even if his latest goal rescued his team from even more heartache.
“It’s always nice to contribute as much as you can no matter where you’re playing on the field,” Jewsbury said. “So it felt good today to get that one.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.