The angle was small; the ball’s flight path to the attacker, almost non-existent. Nevertheless, Seattle’s Joevin Jones saw the opening and managed to fade in a cross with the outside of his left foot.
The result? A Brad Evans goal and a Jones assist -- the latter becoming quite commonplace in 2017.
That assist -- coming in last Wednesday’s 4-3 victory over D.C. United -- was Jones’ second of the match and part of a three-assist week for the Trinidadian. Seattle’s left back has now tallied nine assists on the season, just one behind the trio of league leaders in that statistical category.
How rare is that? Well, the Sounders Twitter account reports that it’s the most assists by a defender* since 2003 (San Jose’s Brian Mullan).
It also sets Jones on a path to be one of the most prolific attacking defenders in league history.
(*Since players often play different positions, there’s no definitive measure of the most assists by a defender in league history. For example, Mullan often played as a midfielder in 2003 and even Jones has occasionally been deployed as a midfielder in 2017, making reliable measurement of the stat a challenge.)
We looked at the Audi Player Index numbers to find out how Jones’ season compares to defenders across the league.
What we learned was that Jones finds success by camping out in the opponent’s territory. The 25-year-old leads among all defenders in successful passing in the opposition's half and successful passing in final third.
He is also second in the league amongst defenders in two categories: take-ons won and corners won.
Jones generally plays as the left back in Seattle’s four-man backline. However, as this network passing graph from Sunday's 3-0 win against the San Jose Earthquakes shows, he plays in a more advanced role when he plays as a midfielder. His average position has him ahead of everyone on the team, save target forward Will Bruin. (Jones wears No. 33; Bruin is No. 17.)
Each number represents the location of the corresponding player's aggregate touch, while the thickness of the lines connecting them represents the volume of passes exchanged.
An advanced role is not new to Jones -- his country regularly uses him as a midfielder. It appears that Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer has also given him license to roam forward and pick out final balls. Jones has rewarded that confidence with his gaudy assists total.
The results have the Sounders surging in July. We’ll see if Jones can keep it going on Saturday night against an LA Galaxy backline that has struggled with injury and inconsistency at times this season (10 pm ET, ESPN, MLS LIVE).