The last time we saw Jermaine Jones for the United States men's national team he was lined up at center back. Jurgen Klinsmann has tried out this experiment on several occasions with varied results. It seemed a natural career progression for the 34-year-old. It makes sense to want to push an aging defensive midfielder back in the formation and it seemed like that was the way Jones would be able to play a role for the national team going forward.
Fast forward to Saturday night and Jones has found a new position that is almost the polar opposite of Klinsmann's experiment. Pablo Mastroeni got the crazy idea to try the USA veteran in the No. 10 role. It's only been two matches in, but so far the results have been incredible. He has been the focal point of a resurgent Rapids attack, notching two goals and an assist to begin his time at the club.
Mastroeni's deployment of Jones is awfully reminiscent of Klinsmann's affinity for playing Michael Bradley in an attacking role over the last few years. So, what could this mean for the national team when Jones returns to the team in the summer? Will Jones return to his normal holding midfielder position? Will the center back experiment continue? Or will Klinsmann see how he's performing in a new role and try to implement that for himself?
Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley have been linked together ever since the German-American joined the team back in 2010. They've partnered each other many a time and will likely do so in some capacity again. But how will that partnership look? Recent history has seen Michael Bradley operate the pseudo No.10 role for the USMNT with Jones playing either in defense or behind Bradley in the midfield. Let's take a look at the two's most recent club matches.
Jones' heat map from a 3-1 win over the Seattle Sounders shows a player heavily involved in the attacking third. A complete contrast from the role we're used to seeing him play with the USMNT. This looks like it should belong to Bradley in any match the USA has played over the last few years. Instead, when we compare it with the U.S. captain's heat map from a 2-0 win over the Montreal Impact we see a drastic role reversal.
Even playing next to a defensive player like Will Johnson, Bradley is still occupying the traditional defensive midfielder's role in front of the back line. A role that he's drifted away from under the watch of Klinsmann.
Jones' new role allows him to act as a creative player but he also works as an advanced destroyer who can pressure the opposing back line and midfielders. His reckless abandon style seems more fitted to this than relying on him to be disciplined in a holding role. If Klinsmann's aim is to play a high pressure style it would seem that Jones would be a more natural fit in this role than Bradley ever was. That's not to say that the latter can't get the job done, it's just that he's a better fit for a role that requires less roaming out of position.
What could this mean for this summer's Copa America? Will Klinsmann adapt to his player's newfound roles or will he continue doing what he thinks is best?
The USMNT have three friendlies to experiment with before the real thing kicks off on June 3. It could be worth giving a formation that deploys Jones and Bradley in these respective roles a shot just to see how it works out. Let's face it, the normal attacking gameplan with Bradley as the primary creative force hasn't exactly led us to world domination. A new look that has seen success at the club level could be refreshing.