Jones takes another step toward full fitness with first MLS start, home debut
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Jermaine Jones knew the plan. He knew that the next step in his gradual progression toward full fitness – following last weekend’s 25-minute debut in Toronto – called for a 45-minute run-out against Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday night.
Of course, that didn’t stop him from trying to convince New England Revolution head coach Jay Heaps that he had more left in the tank after an impressive first-half showing on his home debut.
“The coach told me I was going to play 45 minutes,” Jones said. “At half, I was asking him to play more minutes, but he said that he didn’t want to take the risk. It was perfect though, because the team came back and won the game. Now we look for the next game and I hope that I can play 90 minutes.”
Heaps revealed that the plan always called for Jones to play one complete half on Wednesday night, but the decision on whether to start him or use him as a halftime substitute required careful thought. Ultimately the decision was made to pencil Jones into the starting lineup, primarily to give him the benefit of a full pregame warmup.
“I was excited to start him,” said Heaps. “We were working on a plan here and his plan was 45 minutes tonight. The way we looked at it, working with our strength coaches, was that we wanted to give him a proper warmup so he got a full warmup before the game; possession, moving the ball, so that he could go into the game and attack the game that way.”
Jones most certainly attacked his first MLS start with vigor, completing 24-of-28 passes, including a pinpoint cross-field ball to set up Teal Bunbury’s equalizing goal in an eventual 3-1 win.
“We talked a lot about that play in training,” said Jones. “I told him that I was going to play the ball over the top, and it was funny that it actually worked out today during the game. We practiced that play a lot, and I am happy to see that it worked out.”
As pleased as Heaps was with what Jones provided on the field – a tough-tackling, ball-winning presence with the skill and vision to distribute – he was just as excited to see how his new Designated Player continued to provide a lift even while on the bench in the second half.
“He’s such a team guy,” said Heaps. “On the sideline tonight, he lived and died every play. That’s what you love about a player like him, because he brings so much to the field, but at the same time, he’s showing these professionals that caring about every little play matters. That’s what’s been really something special that we didn’t know we were going to get so much. It was more than we were expecting.”
Jones will look to take the next step in his on-field progression on Sunday night when the Revs host the Chicago Fire. It’s a game the U.S. National Team star admits will offer a little something extra as it features the two MLS teams which so enthusiastically pursued him in recent months.
“It’s a special game because it was one of the teams that wanted me,” Jones said. “Now I am a player for New England and I will try to win for us.”