Whatever chance Schalke had of coming back from their two-goal deficit ended the moment Jermaine Jones let the ground.
In the 73rd minute at Stuttgart on Saturday, Schalke was trailing 3-1 but had a man advantage. Gotuko Sakai had been sent off six minutes earlier, leaving Stuttgart to hold out with ten men.
What’s the one thing you don’t want to do with a man advantage? Even out the numbers, and although Jones’s supporters will say the Schalke midfield didn’t make contact with Ibrahima Traouré, this was just as dangerous a tackle as one that did catches a man:
It’s difficult to imagine a more careless challenge. You’re coming in from behind. Your leg is straight, and although it’s trying to play the ball, it’s off the ground. We’ve seen that challenge break ankles.
We talked about it on the site this spring, but tackles like that are a matter of personal respect. Surely Jones isn’t going out there trying to hurt people (else, there’d be a lot of injured Bundesliga players), but you have to have enough empathy for your opponent to say to yourself ‘No, those kind of challenges just aren’t worth it.’ It’s a matter of professionalism. It’s a matter of decency.
And look at the area on the field where he makes the challenge. The leverage in that situation is minimal. From a prevention standpoint, Schalke’s probably no more likely to give up a goal if that pass is completed.
The idea that Jones would have had to make more contact to deserve a card defeats one of the purposes of the dangerous play rule (or, any rule). There is a preventative element to the rules. They’re there to not only codify punishments but also discourage the play.
Everything Jones did on that play was wrong. That he didn’t make contact with Traouré was out of his control the moment he leaves his feet. That Traouré’s survival instincts kicked is in not something that saves Jones. If anything, the fact that Jones drew out somebody’s primal need to withdraw from the play is more evidence of his culpability.
What makes this story more than just a normal red card is Jones’s history; or, perception, depending on how you want to phrase it. In the eyes of many who watch the U.S. men’s national team, Jones is overly aggressive, foul-prone, and he doesn’t make up for it in other facets of his game. Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann recently addressed the concerns.
Today, that side of his game came through. He made a very poor decision that left his team 10-on-10 while chasing a two-goal deficit. More importantly, he put another player’s health at the mercy of a split-second reflex.