Situated right in the middle of everything, the role of the central midfielder is wide-ranging: generator of offense, bulwark to the defense, distributor of the ball, linking one end of the field with the other and much more.
Add to that the often added responsibility of the all-important role of captain and the result is an incredibly essential position.
For the Timbers, Jack Jewsbury has taken on the role since arrival. He’s provided veteran leadership across the field for a young club and helped hold the squad together through numerous changes in the 2012 season.
WATCH: Captain Jack fires it home
He’s admirably filled in at right back when called upon and has, of late, been manning the central midfield again. Against FC Dallas, Jewsbury had one of his best games this season providing a Goal of the Week nominated golazo that equalized the score. He was also highly influential in the middle of the park with 62 successful passes out of a 69 attempted—a near 90% completion rate—as well as providing some timely defensive help.
Wednesday’s game in The Great White North of Toronto (4:30pm PT, ROOT SPORTS, 750 AM The Game / La Pantera 940) presents a formidable challenge for Jewsbury and the Timbers. Manning the opposite central midfield position is a very accomplished captain in Toronto's Torsten Frings. How the two players and leaders clash brings us to Timbers soccer analyst Robbie Earle’s KeyBank Match-up.
World Cup experienced and a Bundesliga veteran, Frings came to Toronto a year ago as part of then-head coach Aron Winter’s overhaul of the squad. After a disastrous 0-9-0 start to the 2012 campaign, Winter was out and Frings was called upon to provide even more leadership.
Then Toronto lost leading scorer in Danny Koevermans for the season due to an ACL injury and even more responsibility was heaped upon Frings. The native of Germany responded with workmanlike aplomb keeping the center of the Toronto XI anchored in a season of turbulence.
Wednesday, Frings will be called upon to provide an extra dose of stability given the numerous missing players on the Reds side. Ryan Johnson (Jamaica), Doneil Henry, and Terry Dunfield (both for Canada) are all away on international duty along with injuries to the aforementioned Koevermans and former Timbers defender Jeremy Hall who is sidelined with a sprained ankle.
For Jewsbury, he’ll be looking to build upon the slow progression of positive play the Timbers have been building since the close July loss at home to Chivas USA. Both that game and against FCD saw Portland leading in possession, shots, and increased control in pace and flow of the game. Jewsbury will again be counted upon to link up between his defense and his forwards quickly to push the ball into the back of the net. That high pass percentage will be tested again.
In Frings, Toronto is not completely at a loss. After Koevermans went down, they quickly went out and acquired Eric Hassli from Vancouver. The Frenchman will certainly be looking to be on the receiving end of Frings’ vision. But look for Jewsbury and Co. to make the most of Toronto's shorthanded side. Should he be able to help shut down the opposing captain from across the pitch and keep the flow of the game in Portland's favor, then the Timbers might just be looking at their first road points of the 2012 campaign.