USA midfielder Jermaine Jones looks to "go back to Germany happy" following eight-week suspension

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann continues to ignore criticism for choosing Jones as team captain, while the Schalke midfielder looks to end a successful camp on a high-note.
PAMANA CITY, Panama -- You don't like the fact that Jermaine Jones is the captain of the U.S. team this month?

Well, Jurgen Klinsmann doesn't care.

The U.S. coach continues to back his decision of naming Jones team captain just weeks after the troubled midfielder earned himself an eight-week suspension from Schalke 04, his Bundesliga club, for intentionally stomping on an opponent's injured foot.

“The fact that Jermaine is captain of this group is simply because he has outstanding quality, and he raised the level of the entire group by coming in and helping everybody,” Klinsmann told at the team hotel prior to Wednesday's friendly against Panama.

“Jermaine is a player that is always highly aggressive and is always a bit on the edge, and he has to deal with that. If you play that kind of game, and you step over it, which he did – you know, step over and step on it – then you have to deal with a certain amound of criticism.”

Jones wasn't planning on joining the current U.S. squad, which is comprised mainly of Major League Soccer players. But to help stay in shape after the supension, it was best for him - and his club - to play with the United States' 'B' team during the two-and-a-half week camp.

He entered camp highly motivated, and in midseason form, just five days before the team faced Venezuela in Glendale, Ariz. on Saturday. He went on to assist Ricardo Clark's winning goal in the 97th minute of the 1-0 victory.

“He’s really appreciative that we’ve brought him in. It helps him bridge these two months as well,” Klinsmann said. "And helps us to raise the bar, raise the level within this group, so it’s a win-win for everyone involved."

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The January camp opened with five players looking to earn their first cap and 13 of the 20 with five or less appearance with the national team. Jones has provided a level of leadership the team would have lacked without his experience.

Jones, who plays on a Champions League side in Germany, has been capped 15 times, including starting each of the six games during last year's Gold Cup.

"When coach came to me and said I'd be captain, I was happy," said Jones, who will captain the team for only the second time in his career in Panama. "I appreciate that I can bring the team on the field as captain and I hope we can win tomorrow so we can have two wins.

"Then I can go back to Germany happy."

It may be a while until Jones is named captain again, however, so it may be time for the storm surrounding Klinsmann's decision to end. The armband will be back in Carlos Bocanegra's possession next month in Italy.

"Carlos is my friend. He can have it back," Jones said with a smile.