Sounders FC’s Nate Jaqua is a popular target these days — both as a center forward and for his lack of production so far. Certainly having no goals, no assists and just one shot on goal this season hasn’t helped.
Jaqua has earned three starts since filling in for the injured O’Brian White up front. He’s played 341 minutes in eight games total. So has coach Sigi Schmid seen enough out of the 6-foot-4 forward?
“No,” Schmid said, “and I think Nate will tell you that as well. I think Nate will tell you that he expects more from himself.”
So let’s talk to the man himself. I asked Jaqua today at training how he thinks he’s played…
“Obviously you want to put the ball in the back of the net,” he said. “You want to get more involved, but a lot of it isn’t been necessarily been the finishing side of it. Last game I didn’t even get a shot on goal. It’s more of getting myself in good positions and, when I do get the opportunity, getting shots off. Then the goals will come.”
Back to Schmid, after his opening comment he wanted to add a little context and stick up a bit for his guy.
“I think everyone has to remember that last year he really played hurt through the second half of the season, and really sacrificed himself for the team. So that’s something we appreciate. Then with the offseason surgery it’s taken him a while to get back. … For me he’s like in the middle of preseason.”
I asked Jaqua if he feels behind, since his recovery lasted through the first few weeks of the season.
“I think my fitness is there. It’s just a matter of finding my rhythm. You start scoring goals when you get in a good rhythm. I feel like I’m getting into that. I feel like once I find the back of the net they’ll start coming.”
Certainly getting more games will help. That’s why it’s not always the answer to make wholesale changes whenever someone struggles a bit. Remember, it took White four starts before he was involved in a scoring play. As previously mentioned, Jaqua has only had three starts. And like Jaqua said himself, there haven’t been too many scoring chances out there for him. So I asked him what needs to change for that to happen.
“I think we just got to play better. When we’re playing better we’re going to get those opportunities. I don’t think we played as well as we wanted to against Portland. There were a couple times we did, but we haven’t played a full game as we’ve wanted to. The other thing is I score most my goals off crosses and balls in the box, so the more service we can get I think that’ll help as well.”
One last bit from Schmid. The close his comments he mentioned that the relationship between the team’s forwards needs to improve across the board. On the ESPN broadcast of the Portland game, analyst John Harkes rightly noticed that Jaqua and Fredy Montero got a bit cluttered sometimes. Here’s Schmid on the subject:
“There has to be a better partnership between Nate and Fredy Montero, between Fredy Montero and Roger Levesque, between Fucito and whoever. Those two forwards for us have to form a better partnership and that’s something we’re working on. That’s something that will come.”
Obviously the players and coaches — fans, too — hope it comes this weekend. The opponent might help, not just because of the 1-5-1 record but also from Jaqua’s perspective. He has five goals and two assists in the last seven games against Kansas City. I asked him if that had entered his mind this week.
“Yeah, sometimes. I’m confident right now. It’s a matter of getting my opportunities right now and putting them away.”