US coach Jurgen Klinsmann continues to back his decision of naming Jermaine Jones team captain just weeks after the troubled midfielder earned himself an eight-week suspension from Schalke for intentionally stomping on an opponent's injured foot.
The Bundesliga-based midfielder has opportunistically used his suspension as an opportunity to link up with the US national team and Klinsmann praised him for that.
“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 Goal.com 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 US 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 Arizona on Saturday. He went on to assist Ricardo Clark's winning goal in the 107th 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."
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 has been capped 15 times, including starting each of the six games during last year's Gold Cup.
"When the 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.