It is that time of week where we ignore the stack of papers on our desk, leave the screaming kid in the corner to change his own damn diaper, and crank out a post that a certain percentage of you will have found after performing a Google search for “bathroom sex Jeld-Wen Field” (an actual search term that sent one of you perverts our way recently). Indeed, it is time for this week’s EXCU$IVE 5mTKO Big Question.
This week’s question comes from user Testis Til I Die. He/She/It writes:
What is the deal with Jack Jewsbury? Whenever his name is announced in the starting XI some people squeal with delight and some people bang their heads on the wall? Should I squeal or should inflict bodily harm on myself?
If there is one thing we learned from the 2012 season, TTID, it is that you should construct a special room in your house with padded walls so that you don’t do too much damage to yourself when you learn the lineup and your natural instincts are to FacePalm your head into something hard.
Your question is a timely one given Jewsbury’s reappearance in our lives in Seattle. As we saw against Seattle, the insertion of Captain Jack in the lineup comes with both the good and the not so good. On the good side, his role was a very straightforward one: to have his ass in front of Andrew Jean-Baptiste’s and Mikael Silvestre’s faces all evening long. If you take a look at the heat map that shows the club captain’s activity versus the Sounders, you see that he was pretty much rooted in front of the center fullbacks. The advantage of this is that it clogged the middle and forced Seattle’s attack out wide.
It also moved the back four’s line back. Compare Jewsbury’s positioning vs Seattle with the positioning of the two-headed defensive central midfielders when they played against Red Bull New York and you can see that he sat deeper and more central that our friend Diego, Johnson, LLC.
Whether or not this was why we saw a better team defensive performance against Seattle than we saw in the first two games is up for debate but I think it is pretty clear that Porter’s decision to go with Jewsbury was made with defense in mind. It certainly wasn’t done to strengthen the attack in the middle of the pitch. As we have seen throughout his time in Portland, attacking north-south isn’t exactly Jewsbury’s strength, especially when he is in the defensive central midfielder role. Instead, he is more comfortable passing side to side and back.
Against the Sounders, we saw an uncomfortable performance from the Timbers performance, in part because Jewsbury’s presence had the domino effect of forced the Diegos – Chara and Valeria – to the right wing. Neither of these players looked as in control as they have when operating in the middle and the Timbers attack in the center suffered for it.
In previous seasons the question to Jewsbury or to not Jewsbury was a rhetorical one. He always played. That isn’t a given now. While he doesn’t come without shortcomings, Jewsbury does offer Caleb Porter some tactical flexibility. In some instances, like against Seattle, shoring up the backline was given priority and Jewsbury played. In other situations, such as against a sit back and wait team like Montreal, he didn’t play. Moving forward I see Jewsbury as a situational player.