Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By IVES GALARCEP
Jermaine Jones wasn’t the least bit happy with the news that his first career straight red card was going to earn him a four-match suspension from German Bundesliga action, but somewhere Jurgen Klinsmann might have cracked a smile when he looked at the calendar and what the suspension might mean.
Based on the Bundesliga schedule, and the length of Jones’ suspension, he could suddenly be available to take part in the USMNT training camp slated for the second half of January. It is a camp that was expected to feature mostly MLS players, and few first-team national team players. But much like last year, when Jones was hit with an eight-match suspension for stomping on an opponent’s foot, Jones could wind up spending his suspension with the USMNT.
Jurgen Klinsmann has made it clear that Jones is a key figure on the national team, and any notion that Jones will be too old in 2014 to be a part of the U.S. World Cup team seems laughable right now considering Jones is playing at a high level in a tough league. He has also taken on a leadership role within the team, with his Alpha dog persona, and his presence is even more dominant in January camp, when the squad is made up mostly of fringe national team players and young newcomers.
Klinsmann will want Jones in the upcoming January camp, not only to lead, but also to help keep him sharp ahead of the Feb. 6th World Cup qualifier in Honduras. As things stand, Jones is slated to miss all of Schalke’s matches before the Honduras World Cup qualifier, so joining the USMNT in January would allow him to play in the Jan. 28th friendly ahead of the Honduras qualifier.
Getting Jones to the January camp this time around may not be a slam dunk. Schalke recently fired manager Huub Stevens, which means whoever is hired as the full-time replacement isn’t a lock to be okay with having Jones join the USMNT while on suspension. Jones is also spending time with his newborn daughter, which make a two-week trip away from home less appealing.
If Klinsmann can make it happen, he definitely should work to have Jones in camp because Jones brings a unique element and edge to the camp. He was like a man among boys in the last January camp, setting a high standard for the new faces in camp to aspire to. Jones also works well with younger players so he would help set a good tone in the camp.
If Jones can’t make it, Klinsmann will have to turn to other players to fill the leadership void, like a Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman. Two good locker room guys, but two players who don’t carry the same edge as Jones.
You can try and argue about the merit of calling in a player who is suspended from club soccer, but all that really matters is preparing for the February World Cup qualifier, and having as good a January camp as possible. That camp will be better with Jones there, and that fact alone should help ensure that Jones spends January in California for a second year in a row.