He was everywhere. Supporting the attack on the left wing. Tracking back and covering for the right centre back. Making run after lung-bursting run to tidy up the American midfield. Jermaine Jones proved to be the biggest thorn in the side of Costa Rica Tuesday night in Chicago at Copa America Centenario, and an unexpected one at that.
Jones completed 91 percent of his passes, and had five ball recoveries (tackles + interceptions), helping Jurgen Klinsmann’s USMNT to a much-need victory after their opening match loss to Colombia. At 34 years young, the Frankfurt-born Jones still looks like the tenacious all-action midfielder we saw at Schalke 04 a couple of years ago. “I try to always give my best and I’m happy to keep playing again,” Jones said after the United States’ 4-0 win over Costa Rica.
The invaluable leadership and experience he brings to a developing USA team is more than one might expect from a guy that says he’s ‘happy to keep playing’. When the Colorado Rapids traded for Jones shortly after the beginning of the MLS season, this is the man they hoped they were getting. His career had been in doubt following a failure to come to terms on a contract with New England. Jones began his Bundesliga career with Eintracht Frankfurt in 1999 and was also with Bayer Leverkusen briefly before establishing himself at Schalke. The midfielder said on Twitter, the Revs weren’t willing to pay him more than 20% of what he’d earned the previous year, citing age and his injury history. Tweet embed html:
I would like to return to @nerevolution but they have offered me less than 20% of what I made last year.
— Jermaine Jones (@Jermainejunior) Decem ber 19, 2015
After falling in the 2014 MLS Cup Final, 2015 figured to be a down year for the Revs. Nope. Jones managed to help them to another playoff appearance, the club’s third straight.
Capping off a Man of the Match performance Tuesday against Los Ticos with a sublime goal wasn’t the only thing that got the crowd on their feet. Midway through the second half, with nearly everyone else on the pitch taking a moment to catch their breath, he sprinted 20 yards to the touchline, slid, and kept the ball in play; clearing it up the pitch into the Costa Rica half. “The spirit is excellent, they’re all there for each other,” Klinsmann said in the postmatch press conference.
Jones is the embodiment of a team player, and remains someone nearly every side could use. Back in midfield after deputising at centre half during a time when the United States had an injury crisis in the middle of the backline, it’s really a role where the longtime Schalke man can shine. Playing alongside another former Bundesliga player, ex-Borussia Mönchengladbach midfielder and equally high-energy Michael Bradley allows Jones the freedom to roam with the peace of mind that there will be someone to cover him on the rare occasion that he isn’t able to get back and tidy up anything the backline may have missed.
Earlier in his career, when he played in Germany, he was deployed as a defensive midfielder. Since being cleared to play for the United States in 2009 (he played four games for the DFB-Junior teams), he’s been capped 62 times, but the goal against Costa Rica was just his fourth for the Stars and Stripes. “It’s always nice to score a goal, but I had hoped that the first one (a shot that barely missed) would go in,” Jones said.
The last goal he scored came almost two years ago, leveling the match at one against Portugal in the group stage of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. His other goals? The opener in the 2011 Gold Cup quarterfinal in a 2-0 win over Jamaica, and the fifth in a 5-1 hammering of Scotland in a summer 2012 friendly. Maybe he has a knack for scoring in big games, maybe it’s something he’s developed in the later stages of his career. He scored just nine times in 165 Bundesliga games, but has already found the back of the net three times for the Rapids. Regardless, the former Royal Blues man certainly has the look of a player who will be fun to watch as long as he can.