Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By MIKE DONOVAN
One has been deemed the “club captain” by the Portland Timbers, while the other has been the club longer than any other current player. Yet injuries had left Jack Jewsbury and Futty Danso on the outside looking in.
That changed Friday when Caleb Porter inserted both of the now-healthy veterans into the starting lineup and their presence and play was a key factor in the club nodding the 1-0 victory over a fellow playoff contender in the Colorado Rapids.
“In the back, we went with some of our old guards,” Porter said. “We went with Futty and Jack. These guys have been professionals for quite some time.”
With Jewsbury lined up at the right back position and Danso in his familiar centerback spot, the Timbers held Colorado to just one shot-on-target.
“They’ve got some maturity to them, and some experience to them and they’re comfortable in the Timbers uniform,” Porter said.
Jewsbury, who served as in-game captain for Portland in the club’s first two MLS seasons, not only was a secure defensive piece, but also delivered a 4-to-1 successful to unsuccessful pass ratio. Quality passing from the back has been a staple of Porter’s style and Jewsbury was able to break passes through a pressing Colorado Rapids side.
Dues to an ankle injury, Jewsbury had missed five of the club’s previous six matches.
“It’s never fun watching from the sidelines, not being involved in training,” Jewsbury said. “It was a frustrating period for me.”
Jewsbury is in his 11th MLS season, while Danso has notched ten-plus matches for the Timbers in each of the last five seasons, going back to the club’s second-division days. Jewsbury and Danso combined with defenders Pa Modou Kah (professional for 15 years) and Michael Harrington (seventh MLS season), and goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts (who was on Jamaica’s World Cup roster in 1998) to give the Timbers a very experienced set of defensive players.
Friday was the first time since April that the Timbers didn’t use a player under the age of 22 in the backline. With just over one month left in the season, the Timbers turned to experience and notched a shutout in a physical, hard-fought contest.
“We knew it would be a battle going into it,” Jewsbury said. “The reality is, for guys who have been around this league, when you get down to the final five, six, seven games, games don’t always settle down. Teams are pressing to get points.”
If the Timbers are able to make the postseason for the first time in MLS, they will look to Jewsbury to provide leadership as he has played in numerous postseason matches including the 2004 MLS Cup with the Kansas City Wizards.
“I think when you have a lot of experience playing, not only in the backline, but in the team overall, it helps a lot,” Danso, who was dealing with a broken bone in his foot, said. “Jack has been around the league a lot and Kah is one of the greatest leaders I’ve played with.”
Danso, who has eight caps for the Gambia, has joked in the past that it doesn’t matter where he starts the season on the depth chart because he is always finds his way to the field. That was the case again this season with Danso entering the season fighting for a spot with David Horst, Mikel Silvestre, and Andrew Jean-Baptiste.
And now, just five matches from making the MLS playoffs for the first time, Danso once again finds himself on the field for the Portland Timbers.