FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – All of the pieces fell into place for Jermaine Jones to make a successful – and comfortable – MLS debut on Saturday evening at BMO Field.
The New England Revolution’s newly-minted Designated Player watched from the bench as Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe scored to give the Revs a 2-0 lead over Toronto FC inside 21 minutes. Teal Bunbury added a third midway through the second half to put the result beyond doubt before Jones ever pulled on a jersey.
By the time the U.S. National Team star trotted onto the field to replace Daigo Kobayashi in the 65th minute most of the pressure was off and Jones could simply settle into his first game action since the Round-of-16 loss to Belgium in the World Cup back in early July.
“I was happy on the bench that the boys played a good game,” Jones said. “It was 3-0 up, so it was easy to come in. I was happy that I come back on the pitch. I know that I still have to work in training to come back to 100 percent, but it’s always good to win and make your first game.”
While circumstances set up perfectly for Jones to ease his way back onto the field, he likely would’ve seen action regardless of the situation. Head coach Jay Heaps said postgame that the plan was always to get Jones his first MLS minutes in Toronto, just four days after his introductory press conference.
Heaps has been thrilled with Jones’ integration into the group through one week, but did lament that the Revs were unable to maintain much possession in the late stages, forcing Jones’ 25-minute stint into more of a running exercise than a passing drill.
“For us, it’s about fitness,” said Heaps. “Unfortunately I think when he went into the game we were trying to keep it a little bit more and we didn’t, so he got a little extra fitness in.
“But Jermaine has been excellent around this team and around our group. We wanted to get him in there and kind of build it in like a training session.”
Now Jones will have two more training sessions – on Monday and Tuesday – before the Revs are back in action on Wednesday night when they’ll host Sporting Kansas City. The aim for Jones will be to continue a gradual progression as he pushes toward a return to full fitness following an extended break.
“It was a long break for me and I can feel it,” Jones said. “I need time on the pitch, of course, but step-by-step. Today was 25 minutes, maybe next game a little bit longer. But I will try my best to be 100 percent fast.”