He’s just happy to be healthy.
The odyssey of changing associations from Germany to the United States and becoming a regular fixture for the National Team has lasted nearly four years, and now Jermaine Jones has established himself in the center of the park.
“I had a lot of injuries before and couldn’t be a regular part of the team,” Jones said. “This year was finally a complete one for me. It’s important that you can play a lot of games and feel the rhythm of your teammates and build an understanding. Each time I feel better and better.”
A former U-21 international for Germany, Jones was one of the first players to apply for a change of association when FIFA removed the age restriction in 2008. Due to injuries, it was almost two years before he finally made his debut for the United States, the 2-2 draw against Poland on Oct. 9, 2010, in Chicago.
In 2012, he has played in a career-high 11 matches – tied with Tim Howard for the most on the team – and his growing partnership with Michael Bradley has been one of the important developments for the side this year.
“We are finding a good rhythm together,” he said. “I played with Michael in the Gold Cup as well, and we now better understand each other’s qualities and movements. This will only get better.”
A veteran of the Bundesliga and the UEFA Champions League, he has certainly played in his share of big games. But he also learned a different kind of challenge after taking part in the Semifinal Round of World Cup Qualifying in CONCACAF, and it’s one that people back home certainly don’t appreciate.
“When I go back to Germany, other players ask me how we can lose to Jamaica or tie against Guatemala. I tell them it’s hard to play in some of these away games. The pitch isn’t always great, and the teams play as hard as they can. They try and close us down and not play with us, so you always need to fight and stay focused. There is a lot to learn from these experiences.”
And learn they have. When asked about the most important game of the year, Jones didn’t hesitate. “The home win against Jamaica in Columbus was critical. We knew that we had to win in order to keep moving forward in qualifying, and we really stepped up. It was a very good reaction after the loss. I think we could have scored more goals, but the most important thing was the victory.”
With the game against Russia on the horizon, Jones sees this as another big opportunity for a growing team.
“It’s important to play against big teams. We have done it against Italy, France, and Mexico too. We showed that we can play with them. Russia is one of the best defensive teams in Europe. They have very good players, so there are important things we can learn.”
Now with the challenge and success of the Semifinal Round behind him and task of the Final Round, Jones is hungrier than ever to help see this team to Brazil in 2014.
“For me this World Cup is huge. The last time around I was injured, and I may have been able to go to South Africa. Now, I’m 31 and this is probably my last chance. I really want to play in a World Cup.”