Watching Nate Jaqua in training, it’s easy to see how the 29-year-old forward scored 41 goals in his first seven Major League Soccer seasons.
He snaps balls past goalkeepers and into the net with pristine ease in drill after drill.
It’s hard to imagine how he hasn’t scored an MLS goal since October 24, 2009.
Jaqua’s numbers over the last two seasons have been difficult for the forward to take. With no goals and five assists, he has not been the same player that had his best season in the league in 2009, netting nine goals and seven assists in 28 matches. His 47 shots were also second only to the 48 shots he took to score eight goals for the Chicago Fire in 2006.
In the past two seasons, though, he’s been limited by a lingering abdominal injury and managed just 24 shots in 1230 minutes, but has certainly found other ways to contribute.
“He’s definitely battling for us,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “He is disrupting and causing our opponent’s defenders not to clear balls that they normally would clear and that allows us sometimes to be able to maintain pressure in the attacking end of the field.”
Jaqua has seven starts this season and Seattle is 4-1-2 in those matches, outscoring their opponents 12-6 in the process.
He hasn’t scored in those matches, but his contributions have gone well beyond the “goals” column of late.
He set up both of Fredy Montero’s goals in a 2-1 comeback win over the New England Revolution on Saturday and one week earlier also had a hand in the lead-up to two of Seattle’s three goals in a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps.
His play still demands attention from the defense and Montero loves the space that he can find with Jaqua in the lineup. In the five matches the dynamic duo that combined for 21 goals and 14 assists in 2009 have started together this year, Montero has four goals and two assists.
“It’s been tough with the injuries, but now I feel like I have the fitness back and have the mobility. If I keep going, I’ll bang some away,” Jaqua said. “I’m getting that mobility back and getting back to where I was. Having those minutes helps, so hopefully I can keep carrying that forward.”
That is the belief of the Sounders FC coaches, too. In Jaqua, they not only see a player who contributes well in training, but also a player on the brink of returning to the form of his 2009 season.
“He’s missed some opportunities for us and I know that he’d like to have some of those chances back, but he needs to continue doing what he’s doing,” Schmid said. “Sometimes it’s a situation where things look awkward or clumsy, but the result of the play is something that allowed us to maintain possession. As long as he’s helping us do that, then he’s helping us.”
Jaqua and the Sounders will take on the Philadelphia Union in a rescheduled match that was originally slated for July 23 at CenturyLink Field. Kickoff is at 7 pm and the match will be televised live on KING 5 television and on the radio at 97.3 KIRO FM.