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What is going on with Joevin Jones’ Sounders future?

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Kinda, but it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Max Aquino/Sounder at Heart

The dust is still very much settling around the revelation that Joevin Jones had unexpectedly skipped town in order to join the Trinidad & Tobago national team a full week ahead of the FIFA international break. While we still don’t know how this is going to shake out or what, exactly, Jones was trying to accomplish, we now have a better picture of what the potential outcomes are.

So let’s break out our handy question-and-answer format to see if we can’t help you understand it as well.

How about we start with a quick recap?

Sometime after playing 90 minutes in the Seattle Sounders’ win over Minnesota United, Jones got on a plane headed for Trinidad, where the national team was opening camp ahead of a Thursday friendly against Jamaica. That will serve as a tune up for a pair of World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama the following week.

The Sounders were apparently unaware of Jones’ decision until he texted a coach and informed the team he’ll be missing this week’s Cascadia Cup games against the Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers.

That, uh, doesn’t seem normal...

It’s not! While it’s entirely possible other players have pulled such shenanigans over the years, this is the first time we’ve known about anyone with the Sounders taking this sort of unexcused absence.

What can the Sounders do?

In theory, they could block Jones from playing in the Jamaica friendly since it’s outside the FIFA window. They aren’t going to do that, though, and based on conversations I’ve had, they didn’t really even seriously consider that possibility.

Is Jones just going to play in the game then?

That’s still unclear, although I suspect not. There’s no real upside to him playing in a friendly like this and he wasn’t among the 21 players the Soca Warriors listed as eligible for the game. It’s entirely possible he’ll elect to skip the game and focus on the upcoming qualifiers.

What happens after the international break?

Now we’re getting to the meat of the issue, which is also the hardest to predict. There’s a complicating factor to all of this and it’s that Jones has already signed a pre-contract with 2. Bundesliga team Darmstadt, which is supposed to start in January after his current deal with the Sounders expires. He’s due a significant raise on his current bargain-basement salary of $96,000 and there’s speculation that he’d prefer to start that contract sooner than later.

What’s leading to that speculation?

To be clear, neither Jones nor anyone from his camp have made any public statements about forcing his way out. I’m also unaware of anyone in the Sounders even being told of such a private threat. That possibility is mostly born out of people like myself drawing what seems to be a plausible connection. It’s entirely possible that Jones’ contract status and his decision to take an unexcused absence aren’t related.

What if they are related?

For the sake of discussion, let’s assume Jones is trying to force the Sounders’ hand and let him join Darmstadt before the German transfer window closes at the end of business on Aug. 31. The simple solution would be for Darmstadt and the Sounders to agree on a fair transfer fee, clearing Jones to switch teams.

Why hasn’t that happened?

Darmstadt isn’t exactly a big spending team, having spent about €1.2 million on transfer fees this year. Surely, one of the attractive things about Jones was that he was available on a free in the winter. While it’s entirely possible they had previously made an offer to the Sounders to get Jones earlier, there have been no such reports. Maybe this whole incident has weakened the Sounders’ resolve about keeping Jones enough that Darmstadt could make weight with a cut-rate offer. That just doesn’t seem particularly likely at this point.

Where does that leave us?

It’s at least possible the Sounders could basically release Jones and let him go on his merry way, simply in a show of good faith. If he really doesn’t want to be here, the thinking could go, why force him to be? That, too, doesn’t seem particularly likely. Jones is still the best offensive fullback in the league, and even if he’s not 100 percent happy, the Sounders would probably like to have him around. By all accounts, head coach Brian Schmetzer has a good relationship with Jones and he’s probably confident he can make the situation work.

How do you see this playing out?

Given that this entire situation seems to have caught everyone but Jones by surprise, I wouldn’t entirely rule out any of these possibilities. That said, the most likely outcome is usually the one that is the simplest. For Jones to leave, it means several actors making some very hard decisions. That leads me to believe that when the dust all settles, Jones will return to the Sounders. If Nouhou keeps playing the way he has, Jones may not automatically reclaim his starting spot, but my suspicion is we’ve not yet seen the end of his Sounders career.