When you think of the high-profile American internationals that have come home to Major League Soccer in the last two years, Jermaine Jones doesn’t quite fit the model.
Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Ricardo Clark, and Damarcus Beasley all had their beginnings in MLS before plying their trade overseas. But this is Jones’ first foray in MLS, and the process for his dispersal within the league already made for big drama.
Jones actually fits into the model for many MLS (and old NASL) transfers – older players who are looking for another good contract or two, cashing in on their marketability to the US soccer fan. As a pivotal member of the 2014 United States World Cup squad, he is as marketable as he’ll ever be. That made for some MLS-style combat to get him.
Without too much detail, the Chicago Fire were Jones’ primary choice, but New England lodged their desire for his services. After a strange flip of the coin, the Revolution won.
Jones made his first appearance for the Revs over the weekend, getting about 30 minutes in a 3-0 defeat of Toronto. The drubbing of the Reds precipitated TFC’s firing of Ryan Nelsen and the potential for yet another implosion along Lake Ontario. It also brought New England to 3rd place in the Eastern Conference, a position that looked impossible a couple of months ago.
The move to New England is seen as a great fit for Jones. As much as the FieldTurf at Gillette Stadium is horrible for older players, the Revs are a relatively young team with a lot of potential. They are the most promising team to play in suburban Boston since the days of Steve Ralston and Taylor Twellman. Adding Jones to a team that made the playoffs in 2013 should be a stabilizing force on a team that needs leadership.
For Robert Kraft, he gets a player who is one of the most marketable faces in American soccer at the moment. Even though he was German-born, pictures of a snowy-haired Jones from the World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica are indelibly burned in many soccer fans’ images.
Of course, while the diehard Revs fans would love an MLS Cup, they are nearly as driven by the desire for a stadium of their own. And there is little chance that Jones’ presence will translate to sell outs at Gillette. While this signing may placate some fans, Kraft should not consider this an adequate tradeoff. They must address a long-term soccer specific stadium nearer to Beantown in order to improve attendance and atmosphere at Revolution games.
But Jones should help this team towards a Cup, an excellent combination of defensive strength and attacking third awareness. Intertwine that with the team’s youthful verve to succeed, Charlie Davies’ renaissance, and a weak East, and an MLS Cup Final may not be that farfetched.