The acquisition of Joevin Jones didn’t feature a photo shoot on top of the Space Needle or a special presentation involving the club’s owner, general manager, coach and sporting director.
The Sounders weren’t even able to officially confirm the draft-day trade for the left back until hours after the details leaked out. They and the Chicago Fire were frantically trying to track down the player to give him the news before going public.
But Seattle’s trade of its only first-round SuperDraft pick and allocation money to Chicago for Jones filled the most glaring need in its starting 11.
And though defenders rarely inspire the pomp and circumstance surrounding the signing of U.S. men’s national team forward Jordan Morris last week, the addition of Jones was an important bit of business, as well.
Outside backs always play influential roles on Sigi Schmid’s teams. Sounders sporting director Chris Henderson and longtime U.S. national team standby Cobi Jones played there for Schmid’s UCLA Bruins, and Robbie Rogers for his Columbus Crew. DeAndre Yedlin has been the highest-profile example on the MLS Sounders, but Schmid has always relied on talented two-way speedsters to stretch the field.
The need is especially pressing given the tactical tinkering likely to define Seattle’s first few months of this campaign.
Schmid has hinted that the Sounders will experiment with a three-forward formation in lieu of last year’s 4-4-2. And while chemistry is being developed and partnerships defined, versatile defenders who can both push forward and cover for mistakes at the back will be invaluable.
“Outside backs, even in a 4-4-2, in today’s day and age, outside backs have become far more important and more complete players,” Schmid said Monday.
“The outside backs see more of the ball; sometimes your initial buildup coming out of the back is through them. When you look around the world and see different outside backs, there are guys who are instrumental in their teams’ ability to retain possession.”
The opening at left back developed in part because of Leo Gonzalez’s age — the 35-year-old signed with Herediano in his native Costa Rica last month — and Dylan Remick’s inconsistency late last season. That a right-footed rookie, Oniel Fisher, was the team’s best defensive option on the left during playoff time spoke volumes.
“In the last two seasons, Dylan has had some good moments,” Schmid said. “He’s also had some moments where it hasn’t gone as well. I think Dylan is stronger having gone through that experience.”
Jones still enters preseason camp as a clear No. 1 on the depth chart. The 24-year-old has been easy to pick out during Seattle’s first two practice sessions at Starfire Sports Complex — orange cleats and nearly-as-bright hair forming a distinctive blur burning up the left sideline.
“I’m always composed on the ball,” Jones said when asked to describe his game. “I can dribble, can go down the line and get some good crosses in. I’ve got some speed, as well.”
That last point was the first one most of his new teammates brought up.
“Quick,” goalkeeper Stefan Frei said. “He’s a really quick guy. … First impression: Good player, very athletic and good with the ball at his feet.”
Jones’ hometown of Carenage, Trinidad and Tobago, is a fishing village first and vacation destination second. But the Jones brood is a soccer family. Father Kelvin is a former T&T international, and an uncle also played professionally.
“Football is in our blood,” Joevin said Wednesday with a slightly puffed chest.
Joevin Jones made his international debut at 19 in 2010, coming on as a second-half substitute in a match against Panama. He helped lead W Connection, a club on the southern part of his home island, to a league championship and was named team captain before the 2013 season.
Jones tried his luck abroad, spending part of 2014 on loan with HJK Helsinki in Finland, before hearing of Chicago’s interest.
“The opportunity was a big one for me, to show my worth,” Jones said.
That’ll be the case in Seattle, as well, for a team with legitimate MLS Cup aspirations whose lineup shuffling will only increase the pressure on the back line.
No, the trade for Joevin Jones wasn’t the headliner of the Sounders’ offseason, but it could be an integral part of their 2016 destiny nevertheless.