BY MIKE DONOVAN
PORTLAND, ORE.- When Caleb Porter named two captains in the offseason, it seemed like an unusual step for the club. Jack Jewsbury had his gameday armband removed and named a club captain, while newcomer Will Johnson took over the on-field captain’s role.
Six weeks into the season, it seems that the two captains have built an on-and-off-field relationship that has provided dividends for the club.
“We have a team of leaders within this team and certainly Will Johnson and Jack Jewsbury are two of the best leaders we have,” Porter said.
After battling a preseason hamstring injury, Jewsbury made his return to the field on March 16 against the Sounders. Portland hasn’t lost since Jewsbury’s season debut.
Regardless of who wears the armband on gameday, the duo have the same goals and use the same leadership skills when it comes to the club.
“Will and I, we’re on board with the same thing. We both want to win here and do some things that the club has never done,” Jewsbury said. “For us, it’s about making sure everybody is ready for the game, bringing that leadership and our experience into these games.”
Johnson actually credits Jewsbury with his quick assimilation into Portland and cals Jewsbury a mentor.
“He’s as much a leader as I am on the field, in the lockerroom, it’s nice to have somebody else who’s done it before and been around the block,” Johnson said. “We’ve been a better team since he stepped on the field for us.”
While the addition of Jewsbury into the lineup has helped, it has been Johnson who has been leading the way in the statbook with three goals and one assist already in the 2013 season. But Porter points to his leadership and composure as two of the keys in the Timbers four-game unbeaten streak.
“I think when your captain is composed and is managing the game and not getting emotional or rattled then I think the rest of guys are gonna fuel off that,” Porter said. “I think his leadership has definitely played a part in our team looking like the team we have been the last two weeks.”
TIMBERS CONFIDENT HEADING INTO REMATCH
MLS clubs rarely play consecutive games against each other in the regular season, but that is the setup for the Timbers and Earthquakes this week. Coming off a win, Portland has the momentum heading into this Sunday’s matchup.
“We take it as confidence going into the next game, knowing we can beat the team,” defender Michael Harrington said. “We’re confident that we are going to play better this week.”
Despite the confidence, it might be a tough task for the Timbers to get another three points. The club has historically struggled on the road, with just 3 wins in 36 away league matches.
However, Portland is coming into the match on a slight away hot streak with two draws on the road this season. And Porter has talked about how this team should not be judged on previous seasons, due to the influx of new players and a new coach.
Regardless of the club’s history, Porter is expecting San Jose to play with the same physicality that they displayed on Sunday at Jeld-Wen Field.
“We still have to be hungry, they are going to be motivated,” Porter said. “Certainly it’s going to be a difficult game.”
Diego Valeri has returned to training with the team after sustaining a head injury in the April 6 victory over the Houston Dynamo. Valeri was cleared to play in last weekend’s match against the Earthquakes, according to owner Merritt Paulson, but was held out as a precautionary measure.