The 26-year-old defender returned to the practice field at Starfire Sports Complex on Thursday after a three-match stint with T&T for their friendly against Jamaica on Aug. 24 and a pair of World Cup qualifiers against Honduras on Sept. 1 and Panama on Sept. 5.
Jones made headlines with his departure after the Seattle Times reported on Aug. 22 that he had left early for the Jamaica friendly without club permission, only informing head coach Brian Schmetzer via text message after he was already gone.
Speaking with reporters at Starfire on Thursday, Schmetzer said the handling of the situation means it’s now incumbent upon Jones to reestablish his commitment to the club as the Sounders gear up for the stretch run.
“As far as our team is concerned, he understands where he is with me and with his teammates,” Schmetzer said. “He has to prove to them that he is absolutely, fully committed up until Dec. 9 [the day of MLS Cup]. And that will dictate how he plays, when he plays, why he plays, all that sort of stuff.”
Jones has been arguably the best wide defender in all of MLS this season, racking up 10 assists in 24 games. He was also an integral cog of Seattle’s 2016 MLS Cup-winning team. The saga surrounding the early departure came on the heels of news first reported in July that he would be leaving the Sounders at the conclusion of the 2017 season to join SV Darmstadt 98 of the 2. Bundesliga.
Schmetzer didn’t say whether Jones would be disciplined for the unauthorized departure, saying all of that would be “handled internally,” but did add he’s confident there will be no ill will towards Jones in the Sounders’ locker room.
“They’re grown men. They’ll figure it out,” Schmetzer said. “I think a lot of the guys on the team like Joevin. I think they believe he’s a good guy and people make mistakes. There’s no getting around that. It’s put to bed. He’s got to prove it on the field. I have faith in him and I expect him to do his job.”
Schmezter said that Jones will be available for selection for Seattle’s match against the LA Galaxy at CenturyLink Field on Sunday (9 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes, TVAS), although he did not clarify whether the veteran would start. The Sounders’ boss also said he assembled a team meeting on Thursday in order to try and gleam some positives from the situation, and emphasize the unique situation Seattle have in trying to repeat as champions.
“It was a good meeting that we had this morning in the sense that we’re getting down to the nitty gritty here,” Schmetzer said. “So, it was a good chance for me to tell everybody, ‘Your guys’ careers are [short]. The chance of being on a contender like we are is short.’ Some guys have 10-12 year careers and they don’t have a chance at a title. There’s lots of positives we can take out of this as long as the group commits to themselves.
“So, that’s [Jones’] job: To show he’s committed.”