PORTLAND, Ore. – In the midst of a four-game losing streak, the last team the Portland Timbers would want to come up against is the hottest team in the league.
For Timbers captain Jack Jewsbury, that hits a little closer to home as his old club Sporting Kansas City – which will enter their game on Wednesday against Vancouver sporting a flashy 6-0-0 record – comes calling for a Saturday match at JELD-WEN Field (7:30 pm PT, ROOT SPORTS, Freedom 970, La Pantera 940 AM).
Jewsbury spent eight years in a Kansas City uniform before joining Portland before their inaugural season; the extra incentive of playing his old club is taking a backseat to his efforts of pulling his new club out of their current mire.
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"For me, the start we've had has been disappointing collectively and personally," Jewsbury said. "So I don't look at them and say they've done well so that makes it even worse for me. I wish those guys the best in every game except when they play us, and that's the reality of it."
The captain's armband was entrusted to Jewsbury as soon as he arrived in Portland and the franchise-worst losing streak is weighing on him. The team's overall struggles haven't spared the attacking midfielder, the team's lone All-Star in 2011. So far this campaign he has two assists, no goals and just one shot on goal.
"All us veteran guys take it to heart," he said. "You want to succeed, you want to win every time you step on the field. And when you see the team struggling and going through this it definitely hurts and hits close to home."
The influential midfielder also said that the toughest part has been knowing just a few plays could have flipped the script. From the coaching staff down, the Timbers have tried to take heart in their quality play against some of the league's best teams. The Timbers went ahead against Chivas USA, Real Salt Lake and the LA Galaxy before losing all three.
"The reality is we've played some really good soccer against some really good teams, and for whatever reason we've let ourselves down in the last 15, 20 minutes," Jewsbury said. "Whether that's a mentality thing, a fitness thing, we're trying to get better at every aspect of our game right now."
And if the ship is righted against his old team Sporting, knocking them off the high they're currently riding, well, that would make it all the more sweeter for Jewsbury.
"It's a club that I spent eight years with, very near and dear to my heart,” he said. "But at the same time, all that gets thrown out the window when you're playing against them. It's one of those things, you want to win every game, but there's a little extra meaning when you're playing against your old team."
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.