Left back Joevin Jones has left the Sounders without authorization to play for the Trinidad and Tobago national team in upcoming World Cup qualifiers, multiple sources confirmed Tuesday. The move by Jones means the Sounders will be without one of their top players for games Wednesday at Vancouver and Sunday against visiting Portland.
The Sounders had planned to release Jones for the qualifiers next week, after the Portland game, but he instead flew back to his native Trinidad on Monday and informed a coach via text message afterward. Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey on Tuesday confirmed that: “Joevin has left the team for personal reasons, and he’ll be joining the national team down in Trinidad.”
But Lagerwey declined further comment, including whether Jones had authorization to leave or if he would be disciplined for departing early. Jones plans to play for Trinidad in a “friendly” tune-up math against Jamaica on Thursday. The Sounders could block him from doing so, but that’s unlikely given his already tenuous situation with them — having signed a deal to play with a German second division side next season.
A player walking out on his team would be a huge deal in other major North American professional sports, but it’s not uncommon in international soccer. In the case of Jones, 25, who declined long-term contract offers from the Sounders before signing to play with SV Darmstadt starting next January, this could be an attempt to force an early release from his contract.
The international transfer window closes Sept. 1, and Jones would be able to play for the German side several months early if the Sounders release him. But that seems unlikely, given the talent level Jones brings to a first-place Sounders side hoping to make a run at a second consecutive MLS Cup title.
Jones is considered one of the top left backs in Major League Soccer, and his presence on the team would almost certainly improve the Sounders’ odds of repeating as champions more so than releasing him would. Though Nouhou has greatly impressed the team during his limited playing time, he remains an untested commodity at playoff time compared with the more-seasoned Jones.
Another factor the team undoubtedly will weigh is how Jones bolting before a pair of huge Western Conference games will play in his own dressing room. Players apparently were informed Tuesday about the early departure before taking to the field for practice in Tukwila.
It’s also possible Jones might not return to the Sounders, but that seems doubtful given he’d cease earning his relatively low, sub-six-figure MLS salary and be sidelined from action for several months.