Jack Jewsbury has done a lot for the Portland Timbers.
On Saturday against the Colorado Rapids, he may have just made his most important contribution.
The club’s first captain, who has been shifted all over the pitch, has rode the bench and filled in for injured stars in his four-plus seasons in the Rose City. In Commerce City he sent the Timbers to their first two-game winning streak of the season on the heels of perhaps their roughest stretch under head coach Caleb Porter with a game-winning goal at the death in a 2-1 win at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
“Jack, the old salty dog, finding the goal at the end of the game, that’s a really special moment for him and for our club as well,” Porter said in his postgame comments. “We haven’t had a big result, one where we score at the death, we’ve given up a few at the death, but sometimes results like this really create a feeling and a confidence and a momentum that carries you.”
When just a week ago the Timbers were in the midst of their first two-game losing streak of the season, had the league’s second lowest points-per-game average and had lost the attacking prowess the team had been known for under Porter, they’ve now completely flipped the script.
After Wednesday’s 1-0 win over league leading D.C. United, coupled with Saturday’s result, the Timbers are above the red line with 19 points from 14 games. The game also marked the end to a stretch of three games in a week and six of their last eight on the road.
“We’ve been on the road a lot this month, so it’s nice to cap it off with another win,” Jewsbury said on the field after the game, shortly after being doused with ice water by teammate Nat Borchers. “It’s something we’ve been looking forward to, getting wins in consecutive matches.”
Perhaps even more astonishing is the fact that they’ve done it all without their best attacking player, Diego Valeri, who missed the last two matches with a sprained ankle shortly after his return from a six-month rehab from an ACL injury. And in both games, Porter rotated his lineup with a handful of bench players.
It paid off with an early Maximiliano Urruti winner against D.C. And against Colorado, Gaston Fernandez, who set up Urruti’s goal in his first start of the season, scored the Timbers’ opener against the Rapids.
“The beauty of having a team and a team with depth that when you rotate your squad and give guys the opportunity to come into the game and prove themselves, and I thought the group we played on Wednesday showed a lot of hunger to get the job done under a bit of pressure because we had two games where the results didn’t go our way,” Porter said. “So I wanted to reward some guys. And it certainly meant that we weren’t quite as fresh, but I felt psychologically it was important to reward guys for getting the job done on Wednesday. And it paid off.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.