In 2009, Nate Jaqua had a career year. His nine goals and seven assists marked career-bests for the seven-year MLS veteran.
Even when he slipped a bit in midseason, he moved from his normal forward position to the right wing, where he helped the Sounders to some late-season success.
But Jaqua won’t be motivated by a great statistical year when it comes time for MLS First Kick on March 25 when the Sounders FC hosts the Philadelphia Union. His motivation for this season stems from his old team, the Houston Dynamo, who eliminated Seattle from the postseason with a heart-breaking 1-0 overtime win in Texas in the MLS Cup playoffs' first round.
“I don’t pay much attention to statistics. I want to be out here because I feel like we had an opportunity to win the whole thing,” said Jaqua, 28. “Every year it’s different, but I think we have a team that can grow this year and win it. I don’t like the taste in my mouth after we lost to Houston. That’s the motivating factor. I want to win a championship again.”
Jaqua won one title with the Dynamo in 2007, so he knows what it takes to get there. One key element is health.
So this off-season, Jaqua spent most of his time in Seattle resting and hoping to recover in time to start the 2010 preseason. As a result, he’s grown familiar with Cornish and teammate Pete Vagenas, who is battling plantar fasciitis.
“I was nursing a bit of an injury in the off-season, so I took some time off to try to get my body back. I did more cross-training and more weights to stay away from the pounding a little bit,” Jaqua said. “I’m excited to get back out there, but unfortunately I have not been able to get totally injury free, so I have to do all the boring stuff with Pete and Cornish.”
On Tuesday, he got a cortisone shot that has alleviated much of the discomfort, but Jaqua will ease his way back into training to avoid a recurrence.
“I did a good job completely avoiding Cornish and Randy pretty much all of last year. It’s not as much fun hanging out with them at practice,” he said with a half-grin. “Hopefully, I’ll be away from them soon.”
The sooner he can return to the field the better for the Sounders FC. Not only was Jaqua’s offensive outburst vital in helping the Sounders to a 12-7-11 record and a berth in the MLS Cup playoffs, his efforts were integral in the Sounders US Open Cup run. He scored a late game-tying goal in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup semifinal against the Dynamo, helping Seattle to a 2-1 win to advance to the final, which they would win 2-1 over DC United to take home their first trophy.
Jaqua also has experience in the CONCACAF Champions League, which will add matches to the Sounders FC fixture beginning in late July. It is an experience he looks forward to in 2010.
“It’s a lot of games, so that makes it hard to put out the team we want to put out, so we had to give up a couple of games. The timing of it is not great, but if we take it seriously and try to get into the World Club Championships, that would be big for the league,” he said.
The Sounders FC starts Champions League play in the Preliminary Round with a July 27 match. The tournament runs through May 2011 and features teams from all over North America, Central America and the Caribbean. The winner advances to the prestigious FIFA Club World Cup.