Jermaine Jones came a long way in a very short turnaround to provide the game-winning assist in the seventh minute of stoppage time against Venezuela Saturday night.
The Schalke 04 midfielder only arrived at the U.S. camp on Jan. 14. The roster, featuring largely domestic-based players, provided a chance for Jones to earn some precious playing time.
In December, the 30-year-old deliberately stomped on Marco Reus' previously-injured foot, incurring an eight-week Bundesliga ban. U.S. boss Jurgen Klinsmann offered the son of an American serviceman and German mother the chance to train and play competitively as he waits out the suspension.
“It was certainly a difficult situation for Jermaine with that suspension in Germany by the German FA,” Klinsmann said. “After talking things through with his coach, we agreed it was beneficial to all of us bringing him over here.”
With 13 of the 20-man roster boasting five caps or less, including five who had yet to make their international debuts, Klinsmann relished the big-game experience Jones brought to the camp.
“He came in here at night. The next morning was practice and I asked him if he wanted to relax a little bit, maybe just take a little jog,” Klinsmann, who now has a 3-1-4 record with the U.S., recalled. “He said no. He jumped right in and everyone could see why he's playing in the Champions League.
“He elevated the whole group within one training session with his energy, with his leadership, with his vision on the field.”
Klinsmann rewarded that leadership with the captain's armband in Saturday's match. Jones responded with an all-action display that featured the best and worst of the combative midfielder. There was copious amounts of energy and bursting box-to-box runs, sure, but also a scything tackle to earn a yellow and some damaging turnovers from erratic distribution.
Still, based on the corner-kick assist and Jones' overall display, Klinsmann says he didn't regret his choice.
“When you look at the team we brought in for this camp, it's all hungry good players that want to make the next step,” the German coach explained. “They want to know, 'Where's my next level?' He took care of that, Jermaine Jones did. He talked with the guys and that's why it was a good decision to make him captain.”
With Jermaine Jones, you take both the good and the bad.
Marc Serber (@soccerserber) of usfutblog.com contributed reporting from Phoenix.
Follow ZAC LEE RIGG on or shoot him an email.