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Joevin Jones, Nelson Valdez have been Sounders’ playoff stars

Valdez scored his first two goals in a year this past week, and Jones has had a hand in all four Seattle playoff goals.

Seattle Sounders vs. FC Dallas: Photos Mike Russell, MikeRussellFOTO.com

For Seattle Sounders FC, praise is in high supply for players like Nicolas Lodeiro and Jordan Morris, who both made the shortlists for the Newcomer of the Year and Rookie of the Year awards, respectively. While Lodeiro scored two of the four Sounders’ playoff goals this season, Brian Schmetzer was full of praise on Tuesday for two of his other squad members: Nelson Valdez and Joevin Jones.

Valdez, who hadn’t scored all season long in MLS play, scored the winner against Sporting Kansas City and kicked off the incredible eight-minute run that gave the Sounders a 3-0 victory over FC Dallas. Schmetzer, like Sigi Schmid before him, has always praised Valdez’s hard work in training and play on the pitch, regardless of goals scored, or lack thereof. As for what blew the floodgates open for Valdez in the last two matches, Schmetzer was quick to credit the player: “[Valdez’s] determination throughout the year has finally caught up with him. All the good work that he’s done, all the training...he’s made the most of his opportunities.”

Schmetzer said Valdez deserved the start not only for his goal, but for the many “facets” of his game that don’t show up on the scoresheet, like “his heading in midfield on goal kicks and flick-ons, his hold up play, his spacing with Nico on a little backheel where he was able to get us out of trouble.” As he often does with veteran players, Schmetzer seemed to value Valdez’s experience, probably another reason why he introduced the Paraguayan and shifted his formation around rather than slot in another player for the injured Flaco Fernandez.

It’s hard to believe Joevin Jones didn’t get more praise after Sunday’s match, considering he assisted two of the three goals, and kicked off the attack that led to Seattle’s other goal. On top of that, Jones also assisted Valdez’s goal against Sporting KC that sent Seattle into the conference semifinals. His three playoff assists are already a club record.

Schmetzer said Jones has a “really high ceiling” and praised Jones’ exploiting of Dallas’ formation on Sunday. “He took what the game gave him, and that was good for him.” The Seattle coach’s notion about Jones’ ceiling shows how much faith the team has in the young left back, and it seems likely that the organization hopes to keep Jones long term. Schmetzer called Jones a “well-rounded kid” that he loves to have around the organization, jokingly saying that this was partially because “we’re both lefties.”

What’s even more impressive about Jones is that he’s been dealing with his toe injury for months now, but he’s powered through it to become one of the most important players in Seattle’s starting XI. Schmetzer noted Jones has “had to deal physically with his toe, which he’s been pretty brave with [and has] taken injections [for] early on.”

Many were curious about why both of those players who had such good games against Dallas were substituted off in the match. Jones simply seems to have been a precaution for a player who had run up and down the pitch for the entire time he was on it; Schmetzer said that the player didn’t have an injury or knock. Valdez, however “got caught in the throat, and he couldn’t go anymore because he had a hard time breathing,” according to Schmetzer. Both players should be available to travel to Dallas at the weekend.