Maybe it is because of the high expectations prior to last season, but it seems as I move forward along the arrow the player recaps get a bit longer, and a bit more controversial. The attacking players are the ones that get the glory, and it would seem the criticism. As with Steve Zakuani, the Sounders community just wants more from Nate Jaqua. They see the tallest player on the squad and the expect a player like Brian McBride. They want a "target forward" and define that as a man that heads the ball on goal, and wins the air game.
They want a player they don't have. What they have is Nate Jaqua. Who as that style of target man may be in the mold of McBride or Ching, but certainly is not to that standard, but then who is? What Jaqua is when playing forward is more a post up man that can hold the ball as the other attacking players make runs. When he wins those air battles his head knocks the ball not on goal, but to the feet of the runners. One could even make the claim that he's a bit of a CAM in a Target Forward's body.
Later in the season he shifted to the right midfield role (yes, he still shifted up top at times) and we saw what Nate could do with the ball at his feet a bit more. While he is not the paciest of players he had a bit of touch and when out of the box was a decent passer of the short ball. His offense, as the team's was not as strong late, but with Jaqua he tended to be in the right place/right time and was involved in 18 goals in the 36 competitive matches played.
As next season's most likely Right Wing what Nate will enable the club to do is cross the ball OVER the box where he can win it versus small midfielders and left backs. This switching of the ball keeps the Sounders in the attack rather than resetting the entire thing. Jaqua will also be expected to flash on goal to get the scrap and put it in the net.
But expecting a traditional target man, would mean that you think that the Sounders have effective passers of the high cross into the box (I disagree) and that they want to play the air game. Considering that they seemed poor at the air game, whether long passes forward or insertions into the box, maybe their game is more like Arsenal or Barcelona who play the ball on the ground and expect their feet to win the game of football.
Offense: Jaqua's height does mean that he's in the box and scores with his head, but his true strengths come from opportunism and effective passing in heavier traffic. He's been an effective through man with his feet and head, earning a fair amount of assists for the year. Slow with the ball at his feet, he does a solid job with the ball about 20-40 yards from the goal.
Defense: Nate is another one of the harrying players forward. His strength is certainly not in defense, but instead in his popping up from nowhere and stealing the ball from an unexpecting opponent. He was probably only second to Le Toux in these efforts. If all four attacking players on the pitch did what Jaqua and Le Toux did there would be more deep turnovers leading to opportunity attacks.
Set-Plays: This may be the largest disappointment for Sounders fans. The big man just was not the threat they expected, but he was double teamed every time on a threatening offensive set. That then freed up the Seattle side to score more goals on corner than any other MLS side. On defense Jaqua always came back to clog the box, and was there to body the tall men of the opposition. Tradition may say that Jaqua was a poor player on the set-play, but I would note that Seattle was a +7 on corners last season, and Jaqua was a key to that number.
Defining Moment: When the legend of Zombie Jaqua was born. In two matches against Houston (an Open Cup and a Playoff match) Nate got a bloody head from the heavy contact to which he subjects himself. Both times his head was wrapped in bandages, and once it was so bad that he played in a shirt without a number due to his uniform being soaked in his own blood. He gave his body up in battles and earned the love of fans.
Plus/Minus - 13 | 8
Plus/Minus Per 90 - 0.51 | 0.36
Productivity in League Play - 0.99
Productivity in All Competitions - 0.97
Ratings from Prost Amerika - 6.30 (9th)
Second +/- listed uses Climbing the Ladder's data.
Short Term Peak - Jaqua is at his peak, and maybe declining already. He will likely rotate out once in a while, this season with time at the Target Forward and Right Midfield. Still I expect him to start 85% or so of matches and he will score and assist while fans still complain that it isn't enough. Next season may only be another 8 and 8 year.
Thoughts on Nate Jaqua's season? Expectations for 2010?