It's the end of an era.
The Portland Timbers' first captain, first goalscorer, and first trophy-winner is walking away. Jack Jewsbury will retire at the end of the 2016 season.
Jewsbury, 35 and in the midst of his fourteenth MLS season, chose the end of the Timbers' annual Stand Together Banquet on Sunday night at The Nines to announce his plans in a six-minute speech. Jewsbury has four games left, plus the playoffs, and, fittingly, a job to do — he is, as ever, a crucial part of the Timbers' postseason push.
Everyone has a favorite Jack Jewsbury moment. For some, it was the inaugural season in which Jewsbury led the team in scoring and was an MLS All-Star. For others, it was the wonder-goal to win the 2012 Cascadia Cup in Vancouver, or the playoff assist in Seattle that gave the Timbers the lead in their first-ever playoff win.
Through all the ups and downs this franchise has experienced, Jewsbury has been a rock — to the extent that Caleb Porter has called him the most professional player he's ever worked with. It'll be jarring next year to experience a season without him. In the meantime, there's plenty to celebrate.
It's testament to Jewsbury's presence and personality that he was always regarded as such a calm player. Composure was one of the chief elements of his game, of course, but — as the Salty Old Dog nickname would suggest — this was a man who also played with an incredible amount of grit.
Watching Jewsbury dig in was a sight to behold. The number of times over the last six years when he should have been overmatched, and, through sheer force of will, refused to be, was breathtaking.
He never made it obvious, but Jewsbury played as hard as anyone the Timbers have ever had. There was the full-field stoppage time run in Colorado, at altitude, to score a crucial game-winner last year, but go through his highlights, and you'll see a number of plays in which Jewsbury simply threw his body in front of a ball to make something good happen.
Once, against Columbus in 2014, Jewsbury chested the ball into the box, had it taken away, then slide-tackled the Crew player and went flying into the air as Will Johnson arrived and scored.
He got stuck in. This was a player who, in his thirties and not fast to begin with, and having never played the position, started at fullback for the 2013 team that won the Western Conference.
Last year, after missing almost a month injured, Jewsbury stepped into the Timbers' new single pivot formation in Diego Chara's place and played some 230 flawless minutes over a span of four days that set up the MLS Cup run.
It was a testament to Porter's trust in Jewsbury, and, when it was all said and done in the 2015 playoffs, Jewsbury had started three times, appeared in every game, kept Will Johnson off the field, and won his first championship. Portland couldn't have done it without him.
Jewsbury just refused to go away. He was a solid player, who, perhaps because of his intelligence, got every last ounce out of his talent. That's not to say that Jewsbury didn't have plenty of skill — he is to this day the team's best set-piece taker, an excellent passer, and, as luck would have it, a pretty decent finisher.
Jewsbury also made immeasurable contributions to the club off the field. Jewsbury was the team's first star when it entered MLS in 2011, and throughout the next six years, he was a consistent, gracious, selfless presence in the community — a friendly and familiar link.
Jewsbury is, you have to think, responsible for some little part of the Timbers' incredible connection to Portland. Whether it was doing unglamorous events at McDonald's, or, earlier this year, being the only first-team player to travel to Medford to visit a school, Jewsbury was the man.
The club couldn't have asked for a better ambassador — and if Darlington Nagbe's tears on Sunday night were any indication, Jewsbury has meant a great deal to his teammates as well.
After this season ends, the Timbers will have not a single player who started the club's inaugural match in Colorado in March 2011. The only players left from that 2011 roster will be Darlington Nagbe, Jake Gleeson, and Diego Chara.
Jewsbury will exit with more than 350 MLS appearances, placing him in the top ten all-time. More than 150 of those appearances came for Portland — a city that Jewsbury knew nothing about and had never visited when his hometown Kansas City Wizards traded him to the Timbers just weeks before the start of the 2011 season.
Considering how well he's playing, Jewsbury could have kept going for at least another year. He is an unquestioned starter for the Timbers' in the stretch-run, and his presence in the lineup over the last month has brought out the best in both Chara and a defense that has struggled all year.
But Jewsbury has chosen to bow out now, in full command of both his game and his exit. Eventually, the captain will be joined in retirement by a number of great players from the 2015 championship team. But for now, he stands alone.
And that's the way it should be. Jewsbury was the club's strongest link to its beginning six years ago, and with his retirement, the first chapter of Portland Timbers MLS soccer will draw to a close.
Jewsbury has one more home game left on the schedule — against the Colorado Rapids on October 16th — and he'll be recognized with a tifo from the Timbers Army, and, perhaps, the privilege of wearing the armband one final time.
As long as Jewsbury keeps playing well and the Timbers keep winning, there might just be more than one Providence Park appearance left to come. But when Jewsbury does walk off the field for the final time, he'll do so with his place in Portland Timbers history secure.