Jermaine Jones’ best bet for quick recovery is knee surgery now, not later

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When it comes to repairing torn meniscuses, the sooner a player has surgery, the sooner he will be back on the field. It’s a relatively minor procedure with a short convalescence.

To wit: had United States and Schalke midfielder Jermaine Jones gone under the knife two weeks ago, when reports of his inevitable surgery surfaced in German media, he would already be one-third of the way back to 100 percent. Depending how extensive the necessary surgery is, he could only miss 10 days before returning to training.

The meniscus stabilizes the knee joint and acts as a cushioning pad between bones in the leg. Depending on the location and severity of the tear, arthroscopic surgery is performed to either suture the cartilage back together or remove the affected piece.

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Depending on the location and severity of meniscus tears, they are usually treated with minor surgery — or no surgery at all — and require only a short recovery period.

Snipping reduces recovery time, but it doesn’t provide the long-term pain relief that stitching usually does because it completely removes that cushion between bones. That’s the biggest concern with a meniscus tear: pain. Many athletes, soccer players in particular, play through meniscus tears for years, as long as they can handle the dull, constant pain.

U.S. Soccer refuted the reports of Jones’ surgery at the time, quoting Jones in a press release as saying that “the plan is to take care of it during the winter break.” But when he went down after a tackle in the 2-0 win over Jamaica on Friday, he was slow to get up on a couple occasions.

What started as a minor irritant a couple weeks ago could have morphed into a more painful injury by now. Schalke’s last match before the four-week Bundesliga winter break is Dec. 21 — nearly 10 possibly excruciating weeks away. And if Jones already missed time because of the knee injury, his minutes will have to be seriously managed in the upcoming weeks.

“His knee was bothering him all night [against Jamaica], but he battled through,” U.S. head coach Jürgen Klinsmann said in a U.S. Soccer release explaining why Jones won’t be in Panama on Tuesday for the team’s final (meaningless) World Cup qualifier. “It’s clear that the issue with his knee is something that should be taken care of right away so he can be 100 percent for Schalke and the national team as soon as possible.”

The longer Jones tries to soldier through the injury, the worse it could be for his form. Besides having to shuffle his minutes around and likely change training habits until he finally goes under the knife, the injury could cause him to get frustrated and lose focus on the actual soccer part of his game.

This isn’t the first time in recent memory that Jones has tried to play through pain. When he picked up a concussion in June during the U.S.’s 2-1 win at Jamaica, he told anybody who asked that he felt fine ahead of the next game against Panama one trans-continental flight and just four days later.

It might be time to save the player from himself and force him to take some time off to recover. With the World Cup still eight months away, Jones has plenty of time to recover from the minor surgery and ramp himself back up to speed, using the Bundesliga winter break as a catching-up point.

Not only would having surgery as soon as possible help the player manage his pain, but it would help his club and national teams by getting Jones back in top form earlier.

Galaxy’s Cole admits he enjoys Arsenal struggles

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LA Galaxy left back Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea more than a decade ago, but that hasn’t erased the bitter memories of the departure from his boyhood club.

Cole was famously involved in a “tapping up” meeting with Chelsea without Arsenal’s permission in 2005, but signed a contract extension with the Gunners. Still, he was gone a year later in messy circumstances.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

As the most capped fullback in England’s history who boasts both Premier League and Champions League titles with Chelsea, Cole easily could rest on his own laurels and move on from the divorce.

But when asked whether he’s enjoying Arsenal’s current struggles, Cole couldn’t help himself.

“If I’m honest, yeah, I still think to this day. I laugh to myself. I had a lot of history there and I think the way I left was maybe a bit dodgy but the lack of respect they showed me as well.”

Cole accepts a share of the blame for his time ended at Arsenal, but says he doesn’t regret it. Still, his response is not a picture of class.

Next time, just laugh and say, “Next question,” Ashley.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.