The steel in the midfield of the United States men’s national team was low if not altogether absent for the majority of their one-point international break.
It was Michael Bradley with Darlington Nagbe, Christian Pulisic, and Fabian Johnson on Friday, and then Bradley, Nagbe, Pulisic, and Kellyn Acosta on Tuesday.
Missing from that mix was combustible veteran Jermaine Jones, out with injury and apparently very much wanted by Arena.
“I know I came from a long-time injury, I got injured with the toe, so me and [US head coach Bruce Arena] we talked and everything is okay. If I’m 100 percent fit I want to focus first on the Galaxy, get that playoff spot, then focus in October on making the national team roster.”
The 69-times capped Jones has four goals for the national team including a stunning blast against Portugal at the 2014 World Cup.
With Jones, who’s been injured for much of this year, the U.S. has one draw and two losses in World Cup qualifiers.
He was also one of the side’s better players in the Copa America Centenario, although he picked up his only red card as a USMNT player when he was sent off against Ecuador.
Jones had been talismanic for Colorado and New England, but how has his presence affected the USMNT since he debuted under Bob Bradley in 2010.
With Jones (tournament play): 17W-4D-12L
Without Jones (tournament play): 21W-5D-5L
But hold on, should Jones be punished for not being called up for Gold Cup action since 2011, let’s take another look at those marks without those weakened tournaments (B Teams or not).
With Jones (tournament play exc. Gold Cups): 13W-4D-10L
Without Jones (tournaments exc. Gold Cups): 7W-3D-3L
Jones played every minute of one of the United States’ top World Cup performances in 2014 (1W-1D-2L) as well as the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico. He also played in five Copa America matches (3W-2L) while missing the elimination match versus Argentina with a red card suspension.
That leaves us World Cup qualifying with and without Jones, and let’s only look at Hex matches to eliminate the weaker teams (Sorry 12-1 aggregate wins over St. Vincent, though he played one and missed the other).
With Jones (Hex): 5W-2D-3L
Without Jones (Hex): 4W-3D-1L
Finally what about versus Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago? The Yanks did win in Panama without Jones in the 2013 Hex and drew in T&T with him in the last round of qualifying.
I’m a big Jones supporter, but even in the face of these numbers I find it hard to make the argument that his first international action with this group since March should be in must-win qualifiers with the nation’s soccer reputation on the line.