Jermaine Jones handled his business last night.
People are going to claim he “turned back the clock” with his dominant performance against Costa Rica, one that helped the United States keep its Copa America Centenario dreams alive with a 4-0 win, but it was more than that.
There was savvy in Jones’ play. This wasn’t just an absurdly athletic specimen taking risks that paid off in dividends, it was a veteran putting his stamp on a game.
We’re deeper. We’re more talented. We want this more.
Of course he won tackles, too, and some were risky. That’s “JJ”. But he was also passing in both ostentatious and incisive fashion, from a 50-yard diagonal ball that freed up DeAndre Yedlin on the right to a late through ball that came to nothing.
Here’s where you’d usually read something about “silenced critics”, but can a critic be silenced if the subject doesn’t hear them in the first place? He sounds like the grizzled vet of a buddy cop duo.
“For me, I know a lot of people talk outside, but to be honest, I don’t care what people are saying,” Jones said. “I’m too long in this business. I know that people talk a lot. You have to take it. If you play good, people talk good. If you play bad, you have to take it. I try to always give my best. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes it’s not. Today I’m happy the team played a good game.”
The best part is that while athletes, celebrities and, well, people in all walks of life claim they don’t care what other people think, but Jones genuinely fits the bill of the guy just doing his thing (for better and for worse).
It’s fitting that Jones scored his first USMNT goal since the rocket against Portugal at the 2014 World Cup, because this was a performance akin to that night in Manaus.
At 34, Jones is closer to the end of his run than the beginning, but it’s difficult to imagine him not being in the fold should the U.S. qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. It won’t be as a center back — Ha! Classic Klinsmann! — but nights like Tuesday remind us why the coach will try anything to keep Jones in the picture (as he would with Michael Bradley and is with Clint Dempsey).
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In the media, he’s always going to carry the burden of being Jurgen Klinsmann’s talisman (despite having been brought into the fold by Bob Bradley). Given Klinsmann’s reputation with many fans, this is unavoidable.
The good news is that Jones doesn’t care about any of that.
It’s all for naught if the Yanks don’t handle their business in calm fashion against desperate Paraguay on Saturday, and let’s certainly not ignore than the U.S. looked agonizingly unprepared for Costa Rica’s hard-pressing start on Tuesday. But Jones and the veterans who steered the ship made the S.S. Klinsmann look steady for a night at a major tournament, and that’s a good sign.