Photo by USA Today Sports Images
By CARL SETTERLUND
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — For Jermaine Jones, the New England Revolution’s desire to sign him was more than enough to convince him that the club should be his future home.
Jones was awarded to the Revolution via a two-team blind draw to much local fanfare on Sunday, and the 32-year-old U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder began his MLS career by joining the rest of his New England teammates for Tuesday morning training. He was a full participant in the session despite having not played or trained with a team since the U.S. tam’s elimination from the World Cup on July 1 and stated afterwards that he was plenty pleased to a be member of the Revolution given how much interest they showed in him in recent weeks.
“The New England Revolution, they pushed so bad that they want me,” Jones said at an introductory press conference Tuesday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. “If you have that feeling that somebody is really interested and pushed it so far, I would say, ‘Okay, I will go to New England.'”
A dual-national who spent the first 14 years of his career in Europe and predominantly in his native Germany, Jones had been without a team since before the World Cup. German outfit Schalke had loaned him to Besiktas of Turkey during the winter transfer window, but his contract expired at season’s end and neither side brought him back.
That left Jones to contemplate what it would be like to try something new at this phase in his career.
“Before the World Cup I was thinking about making that move to the States, to MLS,” Jones said. “I talked with the national team coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, a lot about that stuff. I would say he was one who pushed me to make that step, to come back here and play for an MLS team.”
Jones, who spent part of his childhood in Chicago, took the opportunity to refute rumors that he preferred to joined the Chicago Fire – the other team involved in the blind draw – over New England.
“I have to say a lot of people were tweeting that I was saying that I want to play in Chicago,” Jones said. “The point was not true. I already said that on my Twitter.”
The veteran defensive midfielder would seem to be a perfect fit for New England, who have lacked bite in the center of the park since Andy Dorman went down with an injury in early July. Although not yet fully fit, Jones should also eventually provide the kind of high motor that will free up more offensive-minded players like Lee Nguyen or Kelyn Rowe.
“The minute you hear that a player of Jermaine’s caliber is out there, we jumped at the opportunity,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps said. “If you look at a spectrum of players, he was exactly the player we wanted, so I want to thank as a staff (team president) Brian (Bilello) and (general manager) Mike (Burns) and, of course, the Kraft family for pursuing this as hard as they did.”
Jones joins the Revolution on a contract worth $4.7 million that will take him through the end of the 2015 season, at which point he will be 34.
The immediate focus will be on the stretch run of the season as New England (9-12-3) currently sits one point behind the New York Red Bulls for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
“His presence on the field is going to give us a huge lift,” Heaps said. “I think most importantly was just, when (Jones) walked in the door today, there’s an instant respect. I think our players, last game, we averaged an age of 23 years of age. … They’re looking for someone to lead.”
One surprise detail that became public today was that forward Charlie Davies was in the recruitment process. Davies said he has known Jones since 2010, when he was still tight-knit with many of the players on the U.S. Men’s National Team.
“I kind of knew already because I’d been talking with Jermaine for a little bit,” Davies said. “Obviously I’m excited as anybody. He’s a good guy, we get along really well and I think he’ll fit right in. I think he’s just the player that we were missing, really that bite in the midfield, that experience.”
Jones said Davies reassured him that the FieldTurf at Gillette Stadium would not be a problem to play on. Davies added that he tried to sell Jones on living in the Boston area.
Bilello said that the front office had approval from the Kraft family ownership to pursue Jones dating back several weeks.
“The process probably started a month or so ago when we got a call from Jermaine’s representative that he was interested in signing with MLS,” Revolution general manager Mike Burns said. “I think it’s important for us to note that, while we weren’t so public with our interest, both MLS and his representatives were well aware of our interest in Jermaine and we kind of kept it quiet until the end.”
Heaps did not say whether Jones would be available for the Revolution’s game this weekend at Toronto FC, but Jones hinted at possibly coming off the bench.