There were mixed reactions to Jermaine Jones’ first match as a center back for the United States men’s national team, but head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his veteran player both fell into the positive camp.
The soon-to-be 33-year-old New England Revolution star said the position is “easier” than his central midfield gig, while Klinsmann thinks the move is a way to get an extra few years from a player he trusts more than most.
How did Jones do? Pretty well, honestly. There was a yellow card for a foolish kick to the knee of Romell Quioto, but it may surprise you to know that’s just Jones second yellow in his last 14 USMNT matches. Jones also made several big, if risky tackles inside the 18 and mostly bossed the competition with speed and strength.
Yet he also allowed Maynor Figueroa to rise above him and nod home the late equalizer as the Yanks again conceded late.
“We wouldn’t do it if there wasn’t a long-term thought to it, definitely,” Klinsmann said. “Two or three years ago at the Azteca, we had [Maurice] Edu play that role, and now Mo is actually playing that role [with his club].”
Klinsmann said defensive midfielders, where Jones plays with the Revs, have a lot of the same attributes as central defenders.
“Obviously, it takes a little bit of time and a little bit of understanding with the other center back and the fullback,” he said. “But Jermaine has played there before – he has played it a couple of times at Schalke and played it at Besiktas, as well. I was not worried about it all.”
Klinsmann also advocated the idea that Jones could play center back for the Revolution eventually, which certainly does not seem like something Robert Kraft had in mind when he dropped boatloads of dough to bring the USMNT star to Foxboro (a star who has helped completely change the complexion of New England’s season). The Revs also have Jose Goncalves and, likely one day soon, Andrew Farrell in the fray to play CB.
What did Jones think of Day One as USMNT center back?
“I know Jurgen Klinsmann now for a long time, and he sometimes has some crazy ideas, and he asked me and at first I was a bit [hesitant]. But I have no problem with that, the position is OK, and maybe I’ll have some fun in the next few years.”
Far from being intimidated by the different challenges provided by being the last man, Jones said that the position is in many ways less difficult than midfield.
“I think this position is one of the easiest positions on the field, if you have experience and you can read the game a little bit and you are physical,” he said. “And I have no problem to battle in games. That position is easier to play than playing number six.”
Was the move a bit of a wake-up call for the current crop of US center backs, or a way to keep Jones in the fold for a few more years while upping the ante with Michael Bradley and Mix Diskerud in the middle of the park? Matt Besler has a great World Cup and Omar Gonzalez has shown flashes, while John Anthony Brooks, Michael Orozco, Geoff Cameron and Tim Ream are among those who’ve seen time at CB under Klinsmann.
I’d expect Jones to get another look against Ireland, and maybe Croatia, next month if all goes well. Klinsmann’s desire to use Diskerud more makes for some interesting conversation between now and November (and next summer’s Gold Cup).