It's been 172 days (5 1/2 months) since Jermaine Jones played in a competitive soccer match (he did play one USMNT friendly during that span). In that match, he was a member of the New England Revolution and he left the field in disgrace after being shown a red card for aggressive and violent conduct towards referee Mark Geiger.
Fast forward to Saturday, when he's expected to finally return to the field, and a lot has changed for the veteran United States midfielder. He has a new team in the Colorado Rapids and with them comes a much lower salary than the $3 Million he made in 2015. After a long dispute over money with his previous club, the Rapids finally stepped up and acquired Jones' rights in March.
While working off his six-match suspension, Jones missed two crucial World Cup qualifiers that he could have (and probably would have) played a significant part in. Now that he's returning to the field what does it mean for his USMNT future? Will his egregious actions toward a referee affect his national team standing like it did when Clint Dempsey was stripped of his captaincy? Will his age and declining form make it harder for him to break back into the team? Or will he just waltz back into the fold now that he's eligible?
Considering that Jurgen Klinsmann adores him, the smart money is on the latter scenario. Jones has been a constant in the national team setup ever since Klinsmann took over the job. With the way the team struggled mightily in the midfield against Guatemala in moderately difficult conditions, there are very few ways that Jones isn't on the Copa America roster come summer when the heat will really be on the team.
Those hoping to never see the enigmatic German-American again for the USMNT (or at least this summer) have but a few possible scenarios to hope for.
- Everyone deserves a second chance. Clint Dempsey got one and in hindsight, after the outrage had settled, was what Jones did to Geiger really that outrageous? It was an in the heat of the moment outburst that was justly punished. It's time for everyone to move on. However, if he does something of this nature again that should be the end of his national team career.
- As stated before, Jones is getting up there in age at 34. He's also seen his form dip quite significantly since the World Cup two years ago. If he comes back for Colorado and is so bad that Klinsmann can't ignore his struggles it could open the door for a surprising Copa America omission this summer.