New England Soccer Today

Jones addition a mistake

If the January U.S. Men’s National Team camp was all about wins, adding Jermaine Jones might have been the correct decision. That has never been the case.

The January camps, instead, have always been about giving deserving, often overlooked, players in their offseason a chance to impress while their more established European colleagues are in the midst of their season. It’s a quirk unique to the U.S. National team because of Major League Soccer’s summer schedule.

For a player like former New England Revolution midfielder Jeff Larentowicz, who has been one of the best and most consistent defensive midfielders in MLS, it’s a chance to finally get a real look and possibly push himself up in the pecking order. For current Revolution star Benny Feilhaber, who was part of the 2010 World Cup squad, it’s a chance to finally get a look under new head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and re-establish his role on the team.

That’s what these camps have been and should be about.

Where does Jones fit in? The German-American has been a regular for the U.S. with 14 appearances out of a possible 20 in the past 15 months and has seemingly – and somewhat puzzlingly – established his place on the team despite inconsistent and often underwhelming performances.

In terms of national team standing, Jones has little to gain. Instead, his presence will only take away opportunities for other players – like Feilhaber and Larentowicz – who need the chance to impress.

Under normal circumstances, Jones wouldn’t even be considered for the January camp. His German Club team, FC Schalke 04, is in midseason.

So why exactly did Jones get an all-expenses paid trip to Los Angeles? This video provides the answer:

Yep, that’s Jones stomping on an opponent’s foot. That foot, which belongs to Borussia Moenchengladbach midfielder Marco Reus, already had a broken toe and Reus was wearing a special shoe as a result. Unsurprisingly, the act was deemed intentional and Jones was suspended for eight weeks from any official and friendly matches. That action was missed by the referee in the match, but Jones still managed to get himself thrown out of that match for a separate incident later in the game.

Jones looked set to sit out his deserved suspension in Germany, but Klinsmann added him at the last minute to his January camp squad.

“While an unfortunate situation, it provides me the opportunity to call him in and continue to get him integrated with our system as we prepare the team for qualifying this summer,” Klinsmann said. “I have spoken with the coach at Schalke and Jermaine, and we all agree this is what’s best.”

Best for who?

Does it benefit the U.S. to bring in an established player for meaningless friendlies against weak opposition at the expense of learning more about the other promising players available to the squad?

Does it really helps Jones’ standing with his club to leave the teammates he let down by his hotheaded action in midseason?

Is Jones needed as a veteran leader to act as an example to the younger players in camp?

The answer to all of those questions would seem to be no. So why is Jones here? Klinsmman’s quote suggests it’s to get him further integrated into the squad, but if 14 matches with the first team haven’t done that, a camp of players that in no way resembles what will be seen in qualifying this summer won’t either.

Preston Zimmerman would probably claim he knows the answer.

While Zimmerman’s criticism of Klinsmann’s recruitment of German-Americans is probably unwarranted, Klinsmann’s decision to bring Jones to camp deserves to be questioned. What signal does it send to U.S. Men’s National Team hopefuls playing in MLS when Jones not only manages to hold his spot in the team despite mediocre performances, but also gets bailed out by Klinsamann for the mess he created for himself at his club team?

Certainly if Jones gets playing time over guys like the aforementioned Feilhaber and Larentowicz, who are in camp after earning a look through good club play, not a suspension for bad behavior, those players can rightfully feel aggrieved. Just adding Jones to the roster could – to the players at least – seemingly hint at a lack of faith in his current corps of central midfielders to get the job done against 39th ranked Venezuela or 49th ranked Panama.

Sure, Jones’ presence might just help the U.S. win a couple of meaningless friendlies, but it’s hard to understand what long term benefit his addition to the camp could possibly have.


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