In 2016 Joevin Jones came into his own. After the Chicago Fire essentially gave away the left back, he showed that he could change games by surging into the attack, becoming a winger or even a forward. With Trinidad & Tobago he attacks even more often, sometimes playing as a right mid. But it is at left back where the Seattle Sounders see a future for the 25-year-old.
The ranking is based on several hundred Sounder at Heart readers’ votes. Realio rated every single MLS regular season and playoff game as well as the two CONCACAF Champions League matches. He did not rate USL or USOC play.
Joevin Jones 2016
Before we break down his tools, let’s just remind everyone that Joevin Jones is the first Sounder defender to be nominated for the Sounder at Heart Offensive Player of the Year award. Three goals and six assists from a fullback is good.
He did that through blazing speed. Joevin is great at surging forward into the attack. While he does cross the ball, he’s at his best using dribbles and short passes to enter the 18 at an angle. Jones can work that space better than any Sounders fullback ever, including DeAndre Yedlin. Seattle is at their best when he and the left mid can overload those spaces. It’s also why Jones makes a decent transition to left mid or even a left forward in a 4-3-3.
He cannot contribute on set-pieces, except as a safety valve when the opposition starts a counter.
On defense Jones often had to address two attackers rather than one, mostly while at a full sprint. He is not good at defending space. In many ways he will allow, or teammates will allow, an attack into his area. But, due to good speed and nimble feet, Jones does often win the ball back. A defensive set-piece is an opportunity for Joevin to start a counter-attack.
Speed, speed, and more speed overshadows that he’s not a slight MLS player. Jones will use his body, and against the league’s right-side wingers that can be enough to slow them down.
Joevin Jones is a player who came into the team with mixed expectations, and I think he gave us mixed results. Joevin had a very choppy year, showing us some fantastic highs (8) and awful lows (2). It should be noted that the 2 came in a game where he was playing wide midfielder, and he was docked massively in this match for abject effort in a position that just can’t tolerate walking. He did not look interested in being a two-way midfielder, but definitely looks like a great two-way fullback. It was after settling to the 4-2-3-1 that Joevin really started improving and earned his highest rating of the year against RSL, where he showed off great ability to dominate the game from a defensive AND offensive perspective.
After starting with a strong 6.5 average in the CCL matches, Joevin struggled some under Sigi Schmid, earning a respectable 5.45 rating through 20 appearances, in which he was shuffled all over the field. A move to a bit more defined role under Brian Schmetzer, along with a stronger defense around him, allowed Joevin to impact games more. His average scores rose to a 5.52 for the regular season on the back of a strong 5.66 average over the final 13 matches. What really should be exciting is how Joevin looked to take a considerable step up when it mattered the most. He raised his ratings an impressive 17% in the playoffs, earning a 6.5 playing in all matches to boost his yearlong cumulative rating to 5.71 through 41 appearances. That was the second most appearances on the team.
Joevin is one of a few players who turned it on late and really were the impetus behind the Cup run. He has always had the raw talent to excel, and his underrated touch and passing ability Is sometimes overlooked because of the immense speed he possesses. It took Joevin a while to figure out his role on the team. I think we saw him improve as a result of more structure around him, and by the end of the year he was able to play much more confidently (as exhibited by that perfect PK in the final). I think it is very possible that Jones is a top 3 left back in the entire league in 2017, and will be a vital part of the team with his pace, control, and ability to provide essential width in the attack. I am expecting big things from Jones this year.
Best Case 2017:
In a league that required a Best XI vote to include fullbacks, Jones could compete for recognition there. This isn’t that league, but the potential for that quality of play is there.