Few people know the national team scene better than someone who’s accumulated over 150 caps in his international career.
Former U.S. Men’s National Team veteran Cobi Jones was in Boston last week on behalf of Sports Injury Prevention Program sponsored by DePuy Mitek to conduct a free clinic with area youth to highlight the importance of injury-prevention. Jones is one of many national team personalities – including Alex Morgan, Alexi Lalas and Taylor Twellman – to lend his expertise to parents, coaches and young athletes in conjunction with the program.
While he was in town, the former national team stalwart offered his take on the current state of affairs with the national team, especially in the wake of the squad’s qualifying scare in Jamaica earlier this month.
“I think the game in Jamaica may have been a little bit of an eye-opener for Jurgen,” Jones said via phone last week. “With respect to qualifying in CONCACAF, it’s a very different animal than (it is) in Europe. There aren’t always quality fields, quality stadiums, or quality hotels. Wherever you go, it’s kind of a free for all at times.”
Although Jones admitted he wasn’t “worried” about the U.S.’s qualifying trek in the wake of their stunning 2-1 loss in Kingston, he did point out that it may signal that Klinsmann may have much more work ahead of him.
“With such a limited amount of time, you really need to get a solid 16-17 player core,” Jones said. “You don’t want to keep bringing in and bringing out different players, especially as you’re going through this process.”
One of the players whom Jones believes should remain a part of that core is a name familiar to local soccer fans.
According to Jones, one of the bright spots of the national team in recent months has been Attleboro, Mass. native Geoff Cameron, who’s recent performances against Mexico and Jamaica has established a spot for him on the squad.
“I think he’s settled in there well,” Jones said. “He has all the aspects that it takes and I think he’s proven himself many times and will continue to prove himself to be one of the best the U.S. has (in the back).”
Cameron, who was drafted by Houston out of Rhode Island in 2008, spent six seasons with the Dynamo before he was transferred to Stoke City in July.
But during his time in MLS, the Cameron was called upon to fill a variety of roles – something that Jones believes has made him a better player.
“To be able to move around in a variety of different positions, it means that you have a good understanding of the game, tactically,” Jones said. “Now, wherever he ends up permanently, I think he’ll do a good job because he has the understanding of what every other position on the field has to do.”
Jones can also relate to Cameron’s current situation as an American in a new league and new country. The former UCLA Bruin played for Coventry City in 1994-95, and offered some insight on what it takes to make a smooth adjustment.
“Settle in a quickly as possible into the culture and let it be home for you,” Jones said. “That’s the most important thing. Make sure you understand that that’s home. The best way to succeed is to immerse yourself in the culture, and get your mentality set that this is your life now.”
While Jones certainly believes that Cameron has a promising future in front, he also commented on another player who once played a major part in the national team’s plans.
Two years ago, current Revolution midfielder Benny Feilhaber was a regular call-up during the Bob Bradley regime and was a member of the 2010 World Cup roster.
However, once Klinsmann succeeded Bradley in July 2011, Feilhaber has only seen a single call-up, a Jan. 21 friendly against Venezuela in Glendale, Ariz. Making matters worse, Feilhaber, who’s only recorded a goal and two assists in 26 games this season, has been left off the starting XI in four of the Revolution’s five games.
With that in mind, Jones alluded to what a player in Feilhaber’s current situation may need to do to get back on the radar.
“Any player is better served (being) on a team that’s successful,” Jones said. “That’s just a fact of the game. When the team is successful, and the team is winning, people are going to be like ‘why are they winning?’”
“Now, if you have a team that’s less successful and is losing a lot of games, then no one’s going to pay attention, they’re going to be like, ‘Yeah, OK, they must not be that good.’ That in turn will make people think those players must not be that good. It’s really important to be part of a winning organization.”
With the U.S. already in the midst of World Cup qualifying, Jones believes that time may be running out for Feilhaber to re-establish himself on the national team scene before Brazil ’14 arrives.
“He’s definitely got to look at his options,” Jones said. “You’ve seen it with some other players in the league that make moves to get somewhere else.”