Hail to the Center Back! Jones Strong Despite Draw
"I'm open always to some ideas. I've known Jurgen Klinsmann now a long time, and he has sometimes crazy ideas. He does this and he asked me. At first I was a little bit like...(clears throat) Okay?"
BY Jon Arnold PostedBOCA RATON, Fla.—The results were nearly in, and everything was looking rosy for the United States. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, the Jermaine Jones at center back experiment was a total success. But in the 86th minute a well-hit free kick from Mario Martinez sailed over Jones’ head, and Honduras veteran Maynor Figueroa headed it home for the equalizer in Tuesday night's 1-1 draw. There were no hanging chads this time in south Florida; the goal put a clear blemish on a fine evening for the career midfielder. But despite Figueroa's header, the results of the experiment came back largely positive. Even if he lost a county, Jones may have won the election as a true center back option going forward. “We wouldn’t do it if there wasn’t a long-term thought to it,” manager Jurgen Klinsmann said after the match. “Defensive midfielders usually with their way of playing and vision and sense for it can easily move one step back and play a center back role. Obviously it takes a little bit of time, some good understanding with the other center back with your outside back.” The manager noted that with Jones in his early 30s, it’s unlikely to see him suiting up as a box-to-box midfielder for Russia. But center back “might be a better role over a longer stretch of time. It was good for us to test that out.” Jones had hinted at the position change a day earlier, and everything looked to be in order. On a number of occasions, including just before the goal, the 32-year-old was the last man back and put in a needed, measured tackle. He had communicated well with first-half partner Matt Besler and then with Tim Ream after the break. Even the booking, which was issued in the 60th minute, was a smart foul, and Jones made sure to get his money’s worth from the yellow. The German-American made it looked easy, but when asked if he had indeed had an easy transition a candid Jones replied with just two words: “Hell no.” "I'm open always to some ideas. I've known Jurgen Klinsmann now a long time, and he has sometimes crazy ideas. He does this and he asked me. At first I was a little bit like...(clears throat) Okay? But I have no problem with that. The position is okay, and maybe I'll have some fun in the next years." The night looked like it would be a fun one all around for the Stars and Stripes with an impressive first half that saw the team dominate. Jozy Altidore got the storybook goal in front of his hometown fans, of which there were just fewer than 15,000 in attendance. The Boca Raton native brought down a picturesque diagonal pass from Michael Bradley, shifted past Honduran center back Victor Bernardez, and scored on goalkeeper Donis Escober’s left-hand side in the 10th minute. The host continued to attack in the first half but was unable to generate another shot on goal. Honduras began to look more cohesive in the second half with Klinsmann taking the occasion to bring in players like Ream for Besler, DeAndre Yedlin for Graham Zusi, Bobby Wood for Clint Dempsey and later Alfredo Morales for Michael Bradley. The Catrachos took advantage of the inexperience, pressuring the U.S. and eventually getting the equalizer. Bradley’s club struggles took center stage before the match Tuesday, and while he wasn’t the best American on the pitch the manager said he was happy to have the Toronto FC midfielder back on the pitch. “Michael put a lot of effort in there. He had good moments and he had some missed passes. That’s totally fine,” Klinsmann said. “It was good to have him back and get a good run with the team. As we said yesterday, he has a very difficult season to go through, and that’s part of the process too. We help him in that, and I think it felt good for him to be a part of that group right now. Wish we could’ve finished it up with a win, but it’s all right.” What did you think of the match, soccer fans? Encouraged? Disgusted? Bored? Tell us below. We'll respond—really. Jon Arnold is an ASN contributing editor and host of the ASN Podcast. Follow him on Twitter.
October 14, 2014
October 14, 2014