Nate Jaqua - How to get him?

Meet Nate Jaqua.He's the ideal player for Seattle Sounders FC. He is a relatively young striker and is talented enough to be an occasional US National team player. He recently had a good run playing in Europe (OK, Austria, but it's still Europe) yet has MLS experience - he won the cup last year with Houston. And now he's out of contract, hanging out in Oregon - yes, he's a native Pacific Northwesterner. The icing on the cake is the fact that he has expressed interest in playing in MLS, and reportedly wants to come to the Sounders FC. Brilliant!

One tiny problem though - his rights are still owned by Houston. Which means if he returns to MLS, they have first dibs. Now, the astute reader might think, "couldn't we just sign him to the Sounders in USL and bring him up to MLS next year?" While the rules about the 'promotion' of the Sounders are pretty hazy, since this is an unprecedented situation in American soccer... I don't think they could work this. A month or so ago, the Sounders passed on signing a defender who had been let go by New York Red Bulls, mainly because NYRB would still have owned his rights in MLS. This would probably be the same case regarding Jaqua. And yes, MLS rules are somewhat ridiculous and should be clarified. Like that'll ever happen.

There could be ways around this, of course. The Sounders FC - NOT the Sounders in USL - could trade for his rights and sign him, possibly loaning him back to Houston for the remainder of this season as part of the deal. The Sounders FC are free to sign players already if they want, as they already have locked up USL Sounder Sebastien Le Toux. What could they trade, since they only have one signed player? Possibly a draft pick, a slot for an international player or an allocation allowing for some amount of salary to go over the salary cap.

Complicated enough? In a nutshell, we could get Jaqua, and I'd give pretty good odds that the signing happens eventually. There's just a ton of formalities to go through first.
(Photo courtesy American Soccer News)


Travis said...

how long are his rights owned by Houston? If only for this year, USL Sounders could sign him now, then promote. If longer, then it becomes more difficult.

Anonymous said...

Jaqua might be a good player, but I can't imagine he is worth trading away allocation money and potentially ruining Sounders chances of "first rights" on future picks. For example, if someone like Keller or Dempsey wanted to play for MLS, the team with the top allocation pick will get first choice. If Sounders trade an allocation to Houston for Jaqua, they will lose their current #1 pick (to probably the last place MLS team of 2008).

Ness said...

@ travis - Pretty sure whenever he returns to MLS, Houston has the first crack at signing him.

@ anonymous - Here's the thing. Jaqua wants to return to MLS, but (probably) specifically to the Sounders. When top quality players want to go to a specific team, MLS makes it happen. Exhibit A, Brian McBride - technically Toronto has first crack at signing him, but do you really think McBride will end up anywhere but Chicago? Houston could sign Jaqua first and then trade him to Seattle, or we could trade for his rights, but if he wants to come here he probably will. Eventually.

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