Jones returns as U.S. prepares for Mexico

Jermaine Jones (white jersey) was a standout for the USA at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. (Photo: Mexsport)

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After a tough year that’s included two sports-hernia surgeries, Jermaine Jones admits he’s not yet back as the dynamic player who helped fuel the United States at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

At 33, with considerable tread on the tires, it’s understandable to wonder if he’ll ever recapture his box-to-box relentlessness. Perhaps sensing that, U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has tried Jones at center back in exhibitions following his catalyzing midfield effort in Brazil.

“It’s getting better,” said Jones, who has played in only 12 of the New England Revolution’s 26 matches in Major League Soccer this year. “Trying to get my fitness back 100 percent.”

But with the urgency ratcheted up ahead of October’s CONCACAF Cup match against Mexico, Klinsmann has gladly welcomed Jones back to camp as a midfielder at whatever percent he may be, ahead of friendlies against Peru on Friday and Brazil next Tuesday.

That the call-up comes following only two club appearances for Jones since his second surgery, with the understanding that the two friendlies may be as much about gaining fitness as demonstrating performance.

“He’s not at the physical capabilities that he usually brings into our group,” Klinsmann remarked Thursday. “But still his experience, his drive, his energy and his way of guiding people around him is very important.”

While goalkeeper Tim Howard’s return to the U.S. has been more publicized, Jones’ may be as important for a team that wants to improve its ability to possess the ball.

Those are the battles Jones still wants to fight, destroying the opponent’s buildup and helping create the USA’s own. His ability to get close to full strength over the next 37 days will be crucial to that short-term objective.

“I respect always what the coaches try, what they want from me,” Jones commented. “But I always said that my position, what I like and what I want to play is midfield. And I know that this is for me the best position where I can help the team.”

If Jones can regain his form, he would be a major weapon against a Mexico side that had more possession than all six of its CONCACAF Gold Cup opponents en route to the title.

In facing 2015 Copa America third-place finisher Peru and footballing giant Brazil, the Americans are taking on teams with equally technical players. Jones sees a capable performance against both as an essential building block to October 10 showdown in Pasadena, California.

“We will try everything to win both games and be concentrated in both games, and hope that we don’t make mistakes, so we can go forward to the Mexico game,” Jones finished. “This is like a final, and we want to win that.”