Photo by John Todd/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
NATAL, Brazil — After the final whistle blew at Arena das Dunas on Monday night, Jermaine Jones made his way to the corner of the field where the American Outlaws were sitting. Jones celebrated the U.S. Men’s National Team’s hard-fought and dramatic 2-1 win over Ghana and then laid flat on the ground.
He was exhausted, having given his all and then some in one of his best performances in a U.S. jersey.
Jones delivered a monstrous performance in the first World Cup game of his career on Monday, hustling on both sides of the ball, breaking up several dangerous Ghana attacks and assisting on the goal that Clint Dempsey scored just 30 seconds in. The 32-year-old Jones was integral to the Americans’ ability to withstand the intense pressure Ghana applied for much of the 90 minutes en route to picking up three important points – plaudits should also go to the silent but steady Kyle Beckerman. Jones’ Man of the Match-worthy performance received no shortage of praise from his teammates.
“He played great, battled, in the air he won a lot of balls for us, got up and down,” said centerback Matt Besler. “He really worked his [butt] off.”
Added midfielder Michael Bradley: “Tilted off to the left and helping DaMarcus (Beasley) over there, he’s able to cover so much ground and use his athleticism and break up plays and he’s so important for us.”
Aside from what he did on the field, Jones also had a noteworthy moment for what he did not do on one particular play late in the first half. The hard-nosed midfielder known for his toughness and criticized at times by U.S. fans and media for his physicality was involved in a scuffle with Sulley Muntari near the left touch line that resulted in both players tumbling to the ground.
Muntari was unhappy with the challenge and proceeded to stand over and bark at Jones, who showed great veteran poise in putting his hands up and not reacting to the Ghanian midfielder’s aggression. Jones knew in that moment that any response could end with him heading for an early shower, and he did not want to put his team at risk or cut his first World Cup appearance short.
After all, Jones has worked his entire career and waited patiently to play in this tournament.
“For me, it’s like, I’ve said in the last days too, I try to catch everything that I can catch in these games,” said Jones, who added that he and Muntari were in randomly-selected doping tests together after the match. “It’s nice to play (in a) World Cup. This is for me the important stuff. I play it and try to take everything into me and try to make my best for the team.”
From the heavy defensive load that he had to carry to the nifty flick that allowed Dempsey to race in on goal and score, Jones gave it his all for the U.S.’s cause on Monday. The sight of him being at the point of exhaustion and laying on the corner following the match was emblematic of that.
“In that moment, when I heard the whistle, I was completely out of control of my body,” said Jones. “I was tired, yeah.”