Shortly before the deadline passed, the Seattle Sounders formally announced the signings of Ecuadorian centerback Xavier Arreaga and left back Joevin Jones. Arreaga will count as a Designated Player while the Sounders used Targeted Allocation Money on Jones. Arreaga’s transfer is rumored to have cost somewhere between $1.2-$2 million, which should be spread out over the three years for which his contract is guaranteed and would be a Sounders record for a defender. Even with the significant transfer fee, he can still be bought down to below DP as his total compensation will be less than $1.5 million a year. Jones’ transfer fee is rumored to be only $150,000 and won’t be paid until January 2020.
“We’re constantly looking to improve our squad, and today we’ve brought in two players – a new face and a familiar face,” Sounders General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey said in a team release. “We needed to get younger at the center back position, and we think Xavier is a player who gives us a good long-term solution. Additionally, we wanted to give ourselves another versatile option in the attack, and Joevin is a player we know well and are confident can come in and help us right away.”
Neither player is expected to take on a starting role immediately, but will bolster their depth considerably. Arreaga, 24, is likely seen more as a longterm answer at centerback where both Chad Marshall and Román Torres are likely nearing the end of their Sounders careers. Arreaga was named the top defender in Ecuador’s first division last year after helping Barcelona SC to the second-best record in the aggregate table and qualifying them for the Copa Libertadores.
In addition to be a standout defender, Arreaga has also shown a penchant for scoring goals. He has scored nine times — including once in Libertadores — since 2016.
“We have followed Xavier for some time in Ecuador and our scouting department has watched him live many times,” Sounders VP of Soccer & Sporting Director Chris Henderson said. “He is a cerebral defender and organizes the team from the back, in addition to being technically sound and comfortable with the ball at his feet. Xavier is also a proven leader, as shown by captaining his club side at the young age of 24.”
Jones will likely be competing for minutes more as a left-sided attacker than as a left back, at least immediately. Although Jones mostly played left back during his previous stint with the Sounders, he’s played almost exclusively as a left midfielder for Darmstadt. During his first season in Germany, he had four goals and an assist in a little less than 1,400 minutes. He slumped a bit this year, but still managed to score two goals and register three assists.
Jones lost his starting spot about midway through the year and was not even in the 18 for Darmstadt’s most recent game. The 2. Bundesliga team agreed to release him with two matches left in their season, clearing the way for him to join the Sounders before the close of the transfer window.
Prior to joining Darmstadt, he played two years with the Sounders where he amassed three goals and 14 assists in about 5,000 regular-season minutes. The Sounders had reportedly tried to sign him as a TAM player in 2017, but the contract was rejected by the league and he ultimately left on a free transfer, which allowed the Sounders to maintain his MLS rights.
Like Arreaga, it’s not entirely clear how he’ll be used in the short term as Brad Smith seems to have the left back position locked down and Nouhou seems a more natural late game replacement if the Sounders are trying to hold a lead. More likely, Jones will be used as a midfield option, competing with the likes of Harry Shipp and Handwalla Bwana to backup Victor Rodriguez or Jordan Morris.
“It makes my job harder, not going to lie,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said of adding more players. “But if you want to win championships, why wouldn’t you want to have a couple of additional pieces?
“I have to make sure I do the best job that I can so that they believe in the team, believe in each other and work for each other. That’s my biggest job.”
It was not immediately clear how these signings might affect the Sounders’ ability to sign a new Designated Player in the summer, but they’d still have the ability to open that spot. This would give the Sounders as many as 11 players making more than the MLS maximum — depending on when the raises of Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan start to hit the books. It’s unlikely they have enough cap room and/or allocation money to add another Designated Player without moving someone, but that may be exactly what the Sounders are planning to do during the next window. Torres has made it known he isn’t satisfied with a backup role and it remains unclear how amendable Bournemouth is to extending Brad Smith’s loan. It’s also possible that the Sounders could transfer Nouhou, which wouldn’t clear up a ton of cap space but would likely fetch a significant haul of allocation money.