Impressive Jones providing USMNT leadership at World Cup

Jermaine Jones

Photo by John Todd/ISIphotos.com

By FRANCO PANIZO

RECIFE, Brazil — It would have been hard to label Jermaine Jones as a fan favorite among U.S. Men’s National Team supporters prior to the World Cup, but it isn’t anymore. Not after he delivered three gritty and high-level performances that helped the U.S. advance from a tough Group G and into the Round of 16.

Playing in an unfamiliar left midfield position, Jones has flourished thus far in Brazil and taken his oft-criticized game to another level. He has combined his power and toughness with skill and savvy to arguably be the U.S.’s best player through the three difficult group games.

The veteran hasn’t only led by example on the field with his nonstop running and physicality, but also off of it. Jones has done more media appearances than any other U.S. player, being made available to reporters almost every other day. It’s a conscious effort on his part to fully immerse himself in what will likely be the only World Cup of his career and provide veteran leadership to the team.

Still, it has been Jones’ stellar play that has drawn the admiration of supporters and rightfully so.

“Jermaine is who he is,” said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “He’s a warrior and he showed that again (against Germany) and he’s so important to us and to the entire team because he has this never-die attitude and he’s playing a very good tournament so far. Hopefully, he steps it up another notch now in Round of 16.”

Klinsmann is partly responsible for Jones’ World Cup success as the U.S. manager has found a role that is well-suited for the 32-year-old midfielder. Jones is no longer playing the No. 8 role where he struggled to find consistency on the international level and is now serving as a left midfielder, a position that allows him to put in the hard defensive work that he is good at while also allowing him the tactical freedom to roam forward and join in the attack.

Jones has been criticized in the past for not being tactically disciplined enough to sit back and serve strictly as a defensive midfielder. But his willingness to do whatever it takes to thrive at this World Cup has allowed him to show well in a couple of send-off series friendlies. The Americans deployed a diamond midfield before Klinsmann unconventionally used Jones in a left midfield role in the final pre-World Cup match vs. Nigeria.

“He’s a player with a big character, with a big ego and those kinds of players often times don’t want to do things for the team and I think he’s done brilliant in terms of playing on the left wing, which isn’t anything that’s natural for him,” said goalkeeper Tim Howard. “He’s doing a great job tracking back. There were times (against Germany) where I was scratching my head when he was playing like a center forward, but it was working, Clint (Dempsey) was pulling out, getting more of the ball and it was just working.

“He’s one of the tough guys. He gets in there and he grinds and he’s been fantastic for us.”

Howard is usually spot on with his analysis, but even that might have been an understatement. Jones has arguably been the U.S.’s best player in each of its three group stage matches and has an assist plus a spectacular goal to go along with all the jarring tackles he has delivered.

His equalizing tally against Portugal was especially impressive. With the U.S. trailing and in need of a lift, the hard-nosed midfielder hit a perfect mid-level strike from about 21 yards out that swerved just enough to freeze goalkeeper Bento before nestling into the corner of the net.

Jones celebrated the goal with raw emotion. It was a memorable moment that spurred the U.S. on and also silenced the critics that in the past have labeled him as a mercenary who doesn’t care all that much about his international side.

If that play and his recent U.S.-themed tattoo on his left knee weren’t enough to show that Jones does care about the Americans’ cause, him playing through a broken nose likely was. Jones was battered on a few occasions in this past Thursday’s group finale defeat to Germany, but he did not seem to mind it one bit afterwards.

After all, he had helped the U.S. do what few observers thought it could by reaching the Round of 16.

“This group is a young group and before the World Cup a lot of people were talking why (Klinsmann) take this guy, why he don’t take this guy,” Jones said. “This team is always focused and always look forward and we showed the people. I think the coach make the right decisions, so nobody can talk anymore.”

They still might, but they could also talk about how well Jones is playing in the tournament of his career.

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73 Responses to Impressive Jones providing USMNT leadership at World Cup

  1. T says:

    I’m happy for Jones. He lives and dies with every second of play. That’s something the US hasn’t had on the field much.

  2. sethiepoo says:

    Ronaldo asked for Jones’ autograph after the game.

    • Landon Klinsmann says:

      …and then Chuck Norris asked Jones to demonstrate how he kicks so hard. So it was really a special day for Jones.

      • Chuck Norris says:

        True story. We actually had a contest a few moments later so see who could drop kick a cinder block the furthest. We will know in a few more days…

        • Paul says:

          Or not. I heard the block Jones kicked was in orbit and visible a short while ago from the International Space Station.

          • Sandtrout says:

            It’s orbiting Sergio Ramos’ penalty kick.

            • Paul says:

              Ridiculous! A PK doesn’t have sufficient mass from which another object can orbit. Jones’ cinder block is orbiting around CR7’s ego.

  3. SingularityCup says:

    The only game he has played as a straight LM was against Ghana.

    • USMNT Fan says:

      —————-Howard
      Johnson-Cameron-Besler-Beasley
      Bedoya-Bradley-Beckerman-Jones
      —————-Diskerud
      —————-Dempsey

      Insert Diskerud for Altidore from the Ghana lineup. Jones can remain at LM and Bradley can distribute from a CDM position beside Beckerman. Diskerud will take the offensive responsibility from Bradley. Diskerud is our most technically gifted central midfielder who reads Dempsey’s run very well. If Bedoya or Jones drifts centrally Diskerud can provide cover on wither flank.

      • shaggie96 says:

        I’m curious to see what we would look like in the diamond midfield with Bradley on the right, Jones on the left and Mix in the hole.

      • Bac says:

        JK said again today that he believes in Bradley..etc…
        Then he also said when they discussed getting more into the attack that he basically wants Bradley up there supporting the attack..etc
        (I’m paraphrasing)
        Without Jozy, I don’t know if that means Wondo/AJ with Deuce, or the Xmas tree with maybe Mix & MB underneath…

        Considering the size of Belgium’s center mids and if Kompany plays, I still see JK thinking he wants MB further up the field…

        I don’t know the answer- but JK has gotten a lot right, so in Klinsi we trust

        • Birgit Calhoun says:

          If Bradley doesn’t start playing “plus vite” he’ll be left in the dust by De Bruyne. Just because he is called the general it doesn’t mean that he should act as if he doesn’t know how to run. He always appears to be trotting.

      • sam says:

        This is is interesting. I suppose it could also be a 4-3-2-1 with Bedoya pushed a little father next to Diskerud, but playing with more width. Whatever we do, we need a solution to the Bradley problem. He’s one of our best players, but playing him as a no. 10 isn’t doing him any good. But we also can’t remove Beckerman, who’s been great, and who’s allowed Jones to thrive.

  4. Dan in New York says:

    I’d love to see Jones in a Red Bulls jersey after the World Cup. :-)

    • Yusef says:

      I wonder where he will end up after the World Cup. He is available on a free transfer and stated he would wait until after the tournament to make a decision since his option was not picked up in Turkey. It would be great to see him back in the Champions League this year as he is definitely good enough. I have no idea if CL clubs sign guys at 32, but seems reasonable on a free.

      • beto says:

        I can not see MLS missing this opportunity

        He would be the ideal center piece to build around for the revamped LA team (chivas usa) or either of the new teams next year. Asides from that he would be huge at NYRB too

        • Jack says:

          I’ve heard it thrown around the revamp LA should adopt black and silver. Become the LA side with an edge to them. If they did that Jones would be the absolute perfect signing.

  5. Maykol says:

    If Jones keeps it up, we will have an American on the world cup best XI

    • brian says:

      Agreed, and I think that is a huge statement for him and the team. Reyna in 2002 really was a big step for the US in my opinion. It is a cumulative award, not something earned on one performance.

  6. P says:

    Jones is proving to be just what Klinsmann saw in him – a competitor with an elite mentality and an abundance of experience in matches with massive meaning. I for one am proud that a man like that represents our country and that he has clearly brought his best game when his best has been required.

    • Luis Suarez says:

      I am not sure I have ever seen anything like what seems to have gotten into Jones. Other than maybe when Keifer Sutherland and Bill S. Preston Esq. took me down to some caves by the water on dirt bikes and I drank some weird wine that Keifer gave me and now all can think about is drinking Giorgio Chiellini’s fresh blood before Corey Feldman kills me.

  7. Nate Dollars says:

    been trying to stay out of the tire fire of usmnt comment sections lately, but this is as good a place as any to put a few thoughts:

    1) i was wrong about klinsmann. i never thought he should be our manager (wanted him as a technical director instead) because i thought he was weak on tactics. i don’t put a lot of weight on friendly results, and i wasn’t too impressed with his successes in the b-team gold cup and a qualifying run involving a disastrous mexico team.

    but during this cup, his tactics have (in my opinion) been perfect. i don’t know if it has anything to do with martin vasquez’s reassignment and vogt’s hire, but i give klinsmann credit in any case.

    his tactical masterpiece has been the central midfield, and it leads to my next point.

    2) bradley, jones, and beckerman’s performances are not as good or as bad as they seem. (or rather, they’re balancing each other.)

    it is known that beckerman is limited in his versatility, jones has a difficult time staying back, and bradley’s play is vital to our team’s cohesion. klinsmann has found a way to put all three on the field, minimizing weaknesses while maximizing strengths.

    beckerman, as the weakest of the three, has the simplest job: stay back and protect the defense. that frees up jones to make his runs and tackles and, generally, be hell on wheels the whole game. bradley is played a little out of position and is tasked with being the link between defense and offense; his overall performance suffers a little, but is made up by jones and beckerman being able to do their thing.

    in the end, beckerman and jones shine, and bradley looks less than his best. but it’s the best thing for the team, and it’s a success for klinsmann.

    • Nate Dollars says:

      shoot, one more thing:

      in comparison to bob bradley’s 2010 world cup run, i’ve kept in consideration that bradley had to deal with losing his best defender and arguably his best forward not too soon before the cup, whereas klinsmann has had remarkable luck with injuries to his regulars. i think losing jozy at the beginning of the first game of the tournament makes up the difference between the two situations.

      • JayAre says:

        Sorry but I have to disagree with you on this one. Klinsmann used a lot of players and had a very deep squad at his disposal even the 30 man roster was highly debated on this website while Bradley knew he’d be without Davis and Gooch since the end of qualifying but he hadn’t given enough players PT to be able to trust them at the WC so instead he tried to go for a like for like player (in terms of speed) and choose Robbie Findley a player who had absolutely no business starting much less being in the WC.

        • Nate Dollars says:

          sure, there was debate about the 30-man roster, but most of it was about players 23-30. klinsmann, like bradley, has been pretty set on his top 11-14 players for a while now. losing gooch and davies would be the equivalent of klinsmann losing besler and jozy before the panama game. yes, a good manager should be able to deal with it, but it’s still an extra hardship.

          • Dirk McQuigley says:

            Bradley had the benefit of a very experienced backline anchored by Capt.Carlos. Moreover, the Confed.Cup was much more meaningful than last year’s Gold Cup win. Bradley had us in a group EASIER than the manipulated draw by FIFA in 94. And even then, we only reached the second round because it was 16 of 24 instead of 16 of 32. Ghana was better than every team in our group in 2010 and Portugal and Germany were like facing Spain and Brazil as we did in 2009. But IMO the BIGGEST reason why we advanced was because of Dempsey’s goal in the first 30 seconds. Because of his toasting of Boye, we didn’t have to chase the game like we did for almost the entire first round in 2010. The game against Portugal was more Bradley like, giving up a soft goal in the first 5 min. and then rallying. It takes up a lot of energy, energy we lacked against Germany. Imagine what that game would have been like had we scored in the first 5 min.?

    • Byrdman says:

      We don’t read “I was wrong” very often on this site. So kudos to you for owning up.

      I agree wholeheartedly with your take on the midfield trio and why it is successful. I think you have highlighted what many great coaches in different sports understand. Chemistry is important. Not just to they get along, but do they compliment each other. Are the weaknesses of one being overcome by the strengths of another. So kudos to JK.

      Finally, I think some are overlooking the play of Bedoya. He has not stood out offensively, but his defensive work has allowed the outside backs to get forward a lot. So far outstanding team effort. I am extremely pleased as a fan. Don’t want to put the hex onthe guys, but I think they give Belgium all they can handle and then some. US – 2 – Belgium 1.

      • Nate Dollars says:

        my comment was long enough, so i didn’t want to get into bedoya/zusi, but i agree with you: bedoya has done what was needed.

        • Increase0 says:

          Bedoya seems to be one of those guys who can keep up with the international game even if he can’t really influence it. He is sorta like Beckerman in that if he is used for exactly his best attribute he can be really effective.

          Incidentally, it mostly consists of making space and playing defense for Fabian Johnson to do damage.

          • Paul says:

            I never saw Beckerman playing the way he is. Granted, limited responsibilities, but he’s carried his load well. That alone is reason to temper some criticism over JK decisions that might not seem to make sense to those of watching from the outside.

            • ianuaditis says:

              agreed on beckerman. I was talking with someone who had met him, and he said he was a great guy, but we both agreed we had little confidence in him as a first choice international DM.

              I’ve been wrong so far, he’s definitely exceeding my expectations.

    • Ali Dia says:

      Excellent post. To admit you have changed your thinking on something is not a crime. Means you have an open mind and like to learn and challenge yourself. Some people do not handle it so well (nobody here of course…) but good on you. If anything, it gives you more credibility, not less.

    • Dennis says:

      Agree that Klinsmann adjusted to the players he actually has and found a mostly defensive formation that limits the other teams, but still lets the US get forward from time-to-time.

      Jones has always been a bulldog. He still is, but he still needs to learn to not try so many plays he cannot pull off as a result, his pass completion percentage is the lowest on the team among those who played more than 1 game. Beckerman who is smart enough to stick to what he can do is the team leader in pass completion percentage, while Bradley has completed the most passes. Basically, each of the 3 each has dealt with things admirably:
      Beckerman sits back, breaks up plays coming through the middle and passes safely.
      Jones is playing a very active role as the active destroyer who looks a bit out of control from time-to-time, but so far has been just restrained enough to pull it off.
      Bradley has covered an enormous amount of ground, most of it getting open in support of teammates and has successfully provided a safe way out for teammates who are in trouble.

      • Paul says:

        As I’ve mentioned before, JK likes the ‘street fight’ aspect that Jones brings to the team and I suspect his player instructions for a couple years reflected that. If I’m right, his role during the run-up to this competition to was to instill a little more toughness of attitude in the other players. Now, during this World Cup, the player instructions probably have changed.

      • GW says:

        Dennis,

        Jones’ role at this point , the designated “lead attack dog” requires him to be aggressive and take risks. For him pass completion percentage is not as important as it is to an NFL quarterback.or to Bradley and Beckerman who have to be more careful with the ball.

  8. MikeG says:

    I knew what Jermaine Jones meant to the USMNT long before all the praise he is getting now. The only question, after Bob Bradley was not coach anymore, was how Jermaine Jones would fit into a system, and what system that would be under Klinnsman. I am still not sure what those answers are, but in this WC, let it ride!

  9. deno says:

    How Clint Dempesey sees himself while he plays.

    link to i.imgur.com

  10. Birgit Calhoun says:

    layers can only show up well if they get a chance to play. Belgium showed hey could win even without their top players. It looks to me that Klinsmann either has been told by someone not to play the substitutes who are clearly as good as those players who have been in the game, or he is too conservative or a coward which in the end may cost him the next win. Jones played well, but think there are to many injuries, and it will show in the next game if no changes are made. Beckerman is skirting a suspension if he is not careful.

    • BC says:

      Are you serious? Everyone and their mother gave Klinsmann and his roster zero chance. None. As in zero points from 3 games. Yet you somehow find a way to question his decisions? Amazing.

      • Dawsaw says:

        This dudette also put forth the stellar analysis that Bradley always appears to be “trotting” when the only thing he’s done well this tourney is run (hence most distance covered in the group stage). Don’t feed the trolls man.

      • Son of Dad says:

        Everyone and their mother? Just not true. Most people said they were worried, that it would be really hard to advance, and that they were really excited for the World Cup.

        Apart from the last part, which Klinsmann changed by his dishonorable, unjust, and sinister exclusion of Donovan, I think that’s exactly what happened.

      • Paul says:

        Absolutely right, BC. We’re out of group twice in a row, and this time from the group of death. Anything that happens from here is gravy to an already great USMNT World Cup achievement.

        Not to fuel this particular fire, but JK was right about our chances of lifting the trophy. Germany has justifiably higher expectations. They can look at advancing from group as a formality. For us, it’s not a formality. Maybe, hopefully, a few World Cups down the line it will be different.

        For now, we have to treat Belgium like it’s our last game – one more chance to show the world that U.S. soccer is more than it used to be. If we get the breaks and come out of that with a win, then we move on to our next “last game.”

    • Reginald Buckley says:

      You sir are a coward. I doubt Birgit Calhoun is even your real name. How dare you question Herr Klinsmann’s tactical decisions? Now is a time of war and in war times you do NOT question leadership. We must rally around our troops as they take the fight to Belgium. I have personally purchased American flags for all of my neighbors so they will never forget. Are you even American?

      • JAC50 says:

        Dude, chill. Unless you’re being ironic. Hard to tell sometimes, or maybe it’s just the patriot-speak I keep hearing.

        Also, I’m thinking “Mame” is appropriate , not “sir”.

  11. Jones, Howard, Beasley. Been tearin’ it up.

    • scurvy says:

      Notable that questions were raised of Beasley prior to WC as well, who is quietly having a good tournament. He was a good, solid choice on the flank and makes he center backs better.

      • Sean says:

        It is notable but not in the way that you’re saying. It is amazing that he’s having a solid tournament. Yes. But, it was always a risk with Beasley. And, let him play long enough and you’ll see why.

        Don’t give any more fuel to the Klinsmaniacs. Ugh.

        • GW says:

          Sean,

          Play anyone long enough and eventually they have a bad game.

          DMB just needs to play four more good ones..

  12. Joamiq says:

    Howard is right on with the center forward comment. There were times against Germany when Jones positioned himself as a target forward, especially when a long ball was about to be played out of the back, and why not? He’s been downright unstoppable in the air. Between his positioning and timing, no one is winning any aerial duels against him. Against Germany, he had a few beautiful target forwardesque knockdowns to teammates off of long balls played out of the back.

    • Jack says:

      I’d go all the way with it and start Jones up top with Dempsey. He likes to press high up the field anyway. He looks like he’s in form striking the ball. Also Bradley just isn’t comfortable playing as far forward as he has been. He needs to drop back into the midfield beside Beckerman. So he can find more time and space on the ball.
      Maybe it’s crazy but he have to figure out some way to take the pressure out of our own end. We did a decent not allowing Germany to find a final ball but Belgium have too many players that can beat you one on one.

      • Gill King says:

        I feel that Belgium is getting too much respect here. All of those “too many players that can beat your 1-1″ … where were they over the past two weeks in a vastly inferior group play? I think we stack up pretty darned good against them and I do feel that the US will put enough pressure on them to disrupt their game. It’s not going to be like those friendly’s of a year or two ago.
        I also think that too many radical position/shape changes will detract from what we’ve been trying to accomplish thus far. Go USA!

        • scurvy says:

          Agree in this way–the benefit of playing in the group we did is that we have already faced Mueller and Ronaldo, and have no reason, therefore, to be overly scared of Lukaku, Hazard, and Kompany, top-class though they are. Belgium will be a very tough out but look what we came through.

          • Paul says:

            To me, Belgium looks like a team that was doing just enough to win its group while saving itself for the bigger challenges ahead.

            I wouldn’t fear them, but we certainly should respect this challenge.

            • Gill King says:

              Paul, not meaning to disrespect them, but heck dude, they don’t exactly walk on water. They are favored by every gambling site on the planet, I’m just saying that they are not exactly anointed to punish us.

  13. Chris says:

    Haha remember when everyone on this site said jones was a liability and he shouldn’t play.

    • Remy says:

      Yes, it is very ironic.

    • Gordoninho says:

      Stop with the “everyone” business. Many of us have been staunch Jones supporters, but credit goes to Klinsmann for knowing where to place the spokes in the wheel.

    • Life says:

      Haha, do you understand what the term “liability” means?

      It doesn’t mean something goes wrong “all the time”. It means that there’s the potential, even probability, that actions or events will cause problems for which the chances could be reduced without that element. Jones has demonstrated many times that he is a liability.

      Whether or not he proves that liability during this World Cup or not is a different story. It would be wonderful if he continued his play as of late.

  14. Dirk McQuigley says:

    Belgium is good, but so are we. They may have more talent on paper, but I think we have a better TEAM. They have much more of an injury/suspension problem than we do. They played in a soft group and managed 2 1-0 wins against inferior opposition. Algeria was the best team they faced and for 80 minutes, they handled Belgium. Had they played Belgium last, they probably win or draw. We will have the edge in speed and fitness. Forget about those friendly wins too, especially because Benteke, who dominated the Cleveland match, isn’t in Brazil.

  15. Life says:

    I really would love to know what is going on in the locker room… is there disillusionment as has been reported? Are people secretly banding together despite Klinsmann’s leadership? Is Bradley, who comes from a coaching family, supportive of the leadership? I can’t wait for the end of this coaching staff so we can get the real answers…. interesting things brewing.