FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Jermaine Jones is thrilled to be in New England. Now he wants to go to Toronto.
The Revolution’s newly-minted Designated Player trained with his new club for the first time on Tuesday morning and already has his sights set on a potential debut this weekend when the Revs visit Toronto FC for a critical Eastern Conference clash at BMO Field.
But as eager as Jones is to contribute, he’s also a realist. The U.S. National Team stalwart took an extended vacation following his participation in the FIFA World Cup and after returning to the field in Foxborough, admits it’ll take time for him to regain full fitness.
“I will lie when I say I am 100 percent,” Jones said with a smile at his introductory press conference. “I will do everything I can to help this team. I don’t know, maybe I don’t start from the beginning; maybe I’m on the bench.
“But I’m a guy who is always around the team. We have a young team and I think only my presence there, maybe I can push the team and we can get some points there.”
While it’s unclear how much Jones will be able to contribute on the field in Toronto, head coach Jay Heaps said the 32-year-old midfielder’s influence isn’t limited to 90 minutes between the lines. Jones’ mere presence provided a boost throughout Tuesday morning’s training session, and there’s a sense that he could do the same on Saturday evening in Toronto.
“When he walked in the door today, there was an instant respect,” said Heaps, noting that the Revolution’s average age for last weekend’s win over Chivas USA hovered around 23 years old. “Instantly [the younger players] are looking for someone to lead, and I think today he walked in and that was exactly what the players felt around him.”
For his part, Jones is more than willing to step into a leadership role, playfully noting that at times he may have to motivate younger players by “kicking some guys in his [butt], but only in a good way,” a remark which brought a smile to Heaps’ face.
Jones, however, was also quick to point out that he’s just one of many veteran leaders in the Revolution’s locker room, and after watching the victory over Chivas USA, he’s excited at the prospect of meshing with New England’s young nucleus.
“They have good players in the side, really young, and we will see what happens,” Jones said. “I’ll try to be one of these leaders, but not only me. We need the team and the team has to be in front.”