As the U.S. Men’s National Team’s upcoming World Cup Qualifying matches against Mexico and Costa Rica loom ever closer, veteran midfielder Jermaine Jones finds himself in a race against time.
After returning to the Colorado Rapids following a standout performance at Copa America Centenario this summer, Jones’ focus shifted towards helping his new club continue its turnaround from the disappointing results of the previous two seasons.
Instead, a rough collision in his first match back from international duty saw the veteran midfielder out for an extended period of time, with Jones revealing last week that his lateral cruciate ligament had almost completely ripped off the bone during the encounter on July 4 against Portland Timbers. Had it come completely off, his recovery time likely would have been 6-8 months. Instead it was a reduced, but still frustrating, three-and-a-half.
Despite his absence, the Rapids continued to push for the league’s best record and remained in the Supporters Shield race going into the final day of the season last Sunday against Houston Dynamo. And while they missed out on the hardware, the club did receive a boost heading into the postseason as Jones returned to play the final 22 minutes of Colorado’s 1-1 draw.
“I’m really excited to be back and training with the boys,” Jones told ussoccer.com this week. “I was training for a while, but hadn’t really touched the ball. To kick balls around now and get my first minutes against Houston was good.”
Remaining in close contact with both club coach Pablo Mastroeni and U.S. Jurgen Klinsmann, Jones came into the MNT’s September camp for an evaluation in the build-up to World Cup Qualifiers against St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad & Tobago. Still experiencing pain, all three parties agreed not to rush the player back.
“To get healthy you need time,” he said. “I came into Jacksonville for camp in September, but I wasn’t there yet. We decided to take our time to help me be ready for the National Team in November and obviously for the Rapids in the playoffs.”
Always keeping the goal of being on the MNT roster for November’s qualifiers against Mexico and Costa Rica, Jones said he hopes to use the Rapids postseason matches to build fitness as well as his case for inclusion in the squad next month. With the Western Conference Semifinals kicking off Sunday against LA Galaxy (5 p.m. ET – ESPN), the club has at least two more matches for Jones to prove his case.
“What I need now is game time,” he said. “That’s what you need to get fit and be sharp. That’s what I’m hoping for, that I get my game time. Right now with Mexico and Costa Rica coming up, these are two important games. To represent your country in these two games, you have to be 100 percent. I want to be a part of them.”