PORTLAND, Ore. – Will Johnson didn’t arrive to the Portland Timbers expecting to strip the captain’s armband from veteran Jack Jewsbury.
And even after Johnson, the former Real Salt Lake midfielder who was one of new head coach Caleb Porter’s first acquisitions this offseason, was given the honor for 2013, he said it in no way means Jewsbury’s role is diminished.
To make that message official, Porter also named Jewsbury “club captain,” a title more common in overseas leagues.
“I get along really, really well with Jack,” Johnson told MLSsoccer.com after Wednesday’s training session at JELD-WEN Field. “I think he’s great. The things he’s done here over the past two years are commendable. The things he’s done over his career are very respectable; he’s up there with some of the best MLS players who have played in this league.”
Jewsbury has missed most of the preseason with a hamstring injury and will miss Sunday’s season opener at home against the New York Red Bulls (7:30 pm ET, ESPN2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com). He addressed the media after the announcement Tuesday and said he feels his role on the team remains the same.
“In my eyes it’s a matter of respect from the club in terms of what I do on and off the field and the person I am,” Jewsbury said. “For me, not much really changes when I’m on the field with Will and without Will. We’re both going to be leaders on this team, and hopefully more and more guys step up because what you need on a championship team, which is what we’re building.”
Johnson said being a newcomer to the team hasn’t at all hindered his ability to lead. He said the group brought on board by Porter has come together nicely with returning players, and now it’s his job as a first-time captain to keep everyone on the same page.
“Nobody puts more pressure on themselves than I do,” he said. “I hold myself to the highest accountability in everything I do, and leading this team will be the biggest responsibility I’ve had in my career. But like I said, I’m willing to embrace that.”
Johnson echoes Jewsbury’s sentiments that a quality side should feature leaders up and down the roster. He said when he was with RSL, if longtime captain Kyle Beckerman was injured or suspended then Javier Morales or Nat Borchers would seamlessly step into the role.
“It’s a cool way to do it,” Johnson said. “I like it, it’s unique, I think it’s the right things to do. Some teams keep it in house, and some teams do it publicly. But I think it’s cool.”
Johnson did acknowledge that the dual captaincy also was meant to get on top of any speculation of a rift between himself and Jewsbury.
“It’s to understand the respect, there’s no demotion here,” Johnson said. “It’s a team full of leaders, and for Jack it’s to make sure everybody knows that we’re on the same page and there’s no animosity or that kind of stuff. So it’s just to nip that in the bud. I think it’s going to be a fun relationship.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.