MLS Soccer

LB Jones sprints into position of need for the Sounders

Seattle midfielder Michael Farfan and defender Joevin Jones, right, go through a drill at training camp in Tukwila on January 25, 2016.
Seattle midfielder Michael Farfan and defender Joevin Jones, right, go through a drill at training camp in Tukwila on January 25, 2016. phaley@thenewstribune.com

For everything on the Seattle Sounders’ offseason shopping list, there was only one hole in the projected starting 11 that cried out for filling.

That was at left back, and the club believes it patched that potential problem Jan. 14 by acquiring speedy 24-year-old Joevin Jones from the Chicago Fire.

“We were looking for a left back,” coach Sigi Schmid said Monday. “We still have confidence in Dylan Remick. But Dylan in the last two seasons has had good moments and then some moments where it hasn’t been as good. I think Dylan is stronger as a result of having gone through those experiences. But we wanted one more naturally left-footed guy at left back. … Being able to acquire Joevin in a trade allowed us to fill that hole.”

In a way, it seems a role Jones was born to fill. His father, Kelvin, was a defender with the Trinidad & Tobago national team.

“I haven’t seen him play much, but I heard he was a great player,” Jones said. “The football is in our blood.”

In 2009, Jones followed his father onto his national team and also signed his first professional contract.

“It was a warm feeling for me, you know, making my debut for my country at 19,” he said. “That was awesome for me. And turning professional at 19 as well; signing my first professional contract with W Connection, that was awesome for me and my family. It was a stepping stone for me, and now things even get better.”

After five seasons in the Trinidad & Tobago pro league, Jones was loaned to HJK Helsinki in 2014. The next year the door to Major League Soccer opened, and he happily sprinted through.

“I was offseason and I got the call that Chicago wanted me,” he said. “It was a big opportunity for me to come here and show my worth.”

Jones believes he did that, although like many newcomers he admits it took time to adjust to the physicality of the league.

He made 26 starts and 28 appearances with the Fire, recording a goal and an assist.

When longtime Seattle left back Leo Gonzalez returned home to Costa Rica, the Sounders wondered how Jones might look in neon green. Now they’re about to find out, at the cost of a SuperDraft pick and allocation money.

“He’s very good going forward, offensively he’s very good,” Schmid said. “He’s got good pace, which is always a nice thing. He’s even played some games as a left winger as well for Trinidad. We want our outside backs to be able to get forward.”

Schmid said it’s too early to have seen much from Jones, especially with the left back battling a cold this week. However, he said the newcomer is interacting with his new teammates and early impressions are good.

“He’s a quick guy,” goalkeeper Stefan Frei said. “We have to integrate him into the squad. Work on communication. … But first impression: very athletic and quality speed.”

Asked about his own game, Jones cited his comfort with the ball, his ability to launch crosses and his speed.

With two Sounders training sessions under his belt, Jones cites a remaining challenge — but one that seems distinctly temporary.

“It was difficult for me on the pitch to figure out some of the guys’ names,” he said. “But I think now I got the names, so everything is good.”

Added time

The Sounders went through their annual fitness testing before training Monday at Starfire Sports Complex. “There are some that are good, some that are not so good,” Schmid said. “So you always take that balance. But the most important thing coming out of the fitness tests is we have a base point and we know where we work from. Overall I was pretty pleased with where the team was at.” … Seattle returns to local training Tuesday and Wednesday before heading to Arizona, where the first three friendlies of the new season begin Feb. 3 against Vancouver.

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