PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers will likely have a new captain to go along with their new look for the fast-approaching 2013 regular season.
Head coach Caleb Porter said in advance of Saturday's final preseason game that he would announce the team’s captain early this week. And it appears that midfielder Will Johnson, acquired early this offseason from Real Salt Lake, will take the baton from two-year incumbent Jack Jewsbury as the team’s on-field leader for their opening game at home Sunday against the New York Red Bulls (7:30 pm ET, ESPN2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
Johnson, 26, wore the captain’s armband in the two games in which Porter fielded presumptive starters during last week’s Portland Tournament.
“It’s easy with a group of guys that buy into the philosophies that the coach talks about,” Johnson said of the captaincy after the team’s 1-1 draw Sunday against AIK. “There are no egos here. We have a bunch of individual guys that all want to be part of a winning team.
"I love leading this group of guys. I respect every one of them. It’s been positive so far, and we realize it’s about winning games.”
Porter said he has not yet made the decision, but acknowledged that the appointment would be for the entire year. The choice seems apparent, when coupled with the 31-year-old Jewsbury’s hamstring injury that has forced him to miss a big chunk of the preseason and will keep him out for the start of the season.
The first-year head coach also referenced the possibility of naming a “club captain,” something he said is common in foreign leagues and an honor that goes to a veteran leader.
“I’ve always felt on a healthy team, a winning team, you have leadership that comes in many different ways and maybe it’s not the guy always that wears the armband,” Porter said. “Some of the most successful teams I’ve been around, locker rooms I’ve been in, we had six, seven guys that could have easily have been the captain. And in some cases we had some guys that were more prominent then the actual captain in terms of their leadership, whether it was on the field because of their play or whether it was just being a guy on the side that was very well respected. And I think we have a little bit of that with this group, which is for me real promising.”
Johnson said throughout his career he has always tried to lead by example with his work ethic as well as vocally on the pitch in getting everyone on the same page. He said he spoke to Jewsbury about the role and said his respect for the 11-year veteran is immense.
“He’s the first guy I’m taking into a dark alley with me, no jokes,” Johnson said. “He’s the guy I’m bringing with me. I have the most respect for him in the world. I’m just looking forward to him getting back on the field. He’s a leader, but he’s a heck of a player and we need those caliber of players in this locker room. … So whoever wears the armband, him and I are egoless in that regard and are both going to be leaders. It doesn’t matter who has the armband on.”