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.

CCL wrap: FC Dallas disappoints; Club America struts (video)

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The CONCACAF Champions League returned Tuesday with Toronto FC’s 2-0 quarterfinal first leg win in Colorado, and a trio of ties began Wednesday across Panama, Costa Rica, and Honduras.

[ WATCH: Fred’s vicious free kick ]

Tauro 1-0 FC Dallas

Veteran striker Edwin Aguilar scored a big goal, and goalkeeper Oscar McFarlane did plenty of good things as the Panamanian side struck a wild first blow against its MLS visitors.

Here’s a random fact underscoring how remarkable of a failure this would be for FC Dallas: Only six of Tauro’s roster members have their own Wikipedia page.

Deportivo Saprissa 1-5 Club America

Cecilio Dominguez and Mateus Uribe each bagged a brace, and Renato Ibarra also scored as the tournament’s top team sauntered into and out of Costa Rica on Wednesday. Club America has been to seven CCL finals, and one every single one.

Motagua vs. Club Tijuana — 10 a.m. ET

Honduran hosts hope to have a leg to stand on — pun intended — once the tie heads to Mexico.

West Ham to friendly neighbors Dag & Red: “Will help save our club”

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English Conference Premier side Dagenham and Redbridge has seen better days, and is getting a hand from a Premier League pal.

[ WATCH: Fred’s vicious free kick ]

West Ham United will pay a visit to Dag & Red as part of the latter’s #SaveTheDaggers campaign, and the March 21 date will cost fans between $7 and $21 to see a top flight side at 6,000-seat Victoria Road.

Dagenham and Redbridge chairman Paul Gwinn said, “It really will help save our club.”

“So please come on down to the Chigwell Construction Stadium for an additional night of football. Bring a friend, or two, or more and we can use the gate takings to help get us back on track,” reads a press release.

Dag & Red was founded in 1992 and climbed as high as League One in 2011, and plays just 2.5 miles from West Ham United’s training ground. Newcastle’s Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle are among Dag & Red alums in the Premier League.

It’s a terrific gesture from West Ham, and is even more impressive in the United States where the growing club game is increasingly cutthroat (especially between non-synced leagues).

Angry Di Francesco extremely quotable after Roma loss

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AS Roma manager Eusebio Di Francesco absolutely roasted his charges after i Lupi tossed aside a Cenzig Under-inspired lead to fall 2-1 at Shakhtar Donetsk in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Wednesday.

Di Francesco had praise for Edin Dzeko, who assisted Under’s goal, as well as goalkeeper Alisson, but was mostly enraged by his side.

[ MORE: Recap + Fred’s vicious free kick ]

Rather than construct a narrative, we’re going to point out our five favorite selections from Di Francesco’s post-match talk.

4) “The difference was that in the first half we tried to hurt them while in the second we were looking to hold on – to what? I don’t know.”

— “To what? I don’t know” is hilarious. Di Francesco’s side has posted some serious wins this season, including killing off Chelsea 3-0 at home and coming back from 2-0 to draw the Blues at Stamford Bridge. He doesn’t preach sitting back.

3) “There were far too many schoolboy errors – even by players with a wealth of international experience.”

— Schoolboy errors!

2) “I saw two completely different teams out there today. There were lots of players I should have taken off after we conceded the first goal.”

— Again, one mistake by a number of players on Facundo Ferreyra is enough for Di Francesco. He’s not just happy to be here.

1) “I can’t imagine we’d get arrogant just because we’re winning an important game. It’s not as if Roma are used to reaching the final every year.”

— When you’re willing to essentially rip an entire club’s history — Roma’s been to just two UCL quarterfinals since losing the final to Liverpool in 1984 — you’re putting your footprints in new cement.

Europa League preview: Rating every second leg

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Christian Pulisic and Borussia Dortmund are one of many teams with their UEFA Europa League fates realistically in the balance come Thursday’s second legs of the Round of 32.

[ MORE: Sevilla 0-1 Man Utd | Mourinho reacts ]

Aside from a sextet of big teams posting blowouts, there’s still hope for the Round of 16 and a step closer to an automatic berth in the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League.

Basically done

Atletico Madrid 4-1 Copenhagen — 1 p.m. ET
Sporting Lisbon 3-1 Astana — 1 p.m. ET
Arsenal 3-0 Ostersund — 3:05 p.m. ET
Milan 3-0 Ludogorets Razgrad — 3:05 p.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao 3-1 Spartak Moscow — 3:05 p.m. ET
Braga 0-3 Marseille — 3:05 p.m. ET

In four of these cases, the heavy favorites emerged with multiple goal leads and at least three away goals.

Actually done

CSKA Moscow beat Red Star Belgrade 1-0 on Wednesday to win 1-0 on aggregate.

Unlikely, but big club lurks

RB Leipzig 3-1 Napoli — 1 p.m. ET
Villarreal 1-3 Lyon — 1 p.m. ET

In the case of Napoli, their 3-1 home loss to Leipzig was stunning but it’s impossible to rule out a club with such firepower. Villarreal trails by two to Lyon, but is home and dangerous.

Advantage one side, but anyone’s guess

Lokomotiv Moscow 3-2 Nice — 11 a.m. ET
Lazio 0-1 FCSB — 1 p.m. ET
Zenit Saint-Petersburg 0-1 Celtic — 1 p.m. ET
Red Bull Salzburg 2-2 Real Sociedad — 3:05 p.m. ET
Atalanta 2-3 Borussia Dortmund — 3:05 p.m. ET

Salzburg’s two away goals in a draw feels like a one-goal lead, and the one-goal matches are especially interesting. In the case of Atalanta, 1-0 to the Serie A side could undo Michy Batshuayi‘s first leg heroics for BVB.

Wide open

Plzen 1-1 Partizan Belgrade — 1 p.m. ET
Dynamo Kyiv 1-1 AEK Athens — 1 p.m. ET

Yes, nil-nil will get it done for the hosts, but there wasn’t a 0-0 in the entire group of first legs.