Jermaine Jones USMNT at Gillette Stadium (Lemieux)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Jay Heaps has spent the past 17 years involved in professional soccer as a player, broadcaster and coach, but he’ll be watching Saturday night’s CONCACAF Cup between the United States and Mexico from a bit of a different perspective.


“At that point, I’m a fan,” said Heaps, who experienced the bitter U.S.-Mexico rivalry as a player in 2009.


Heaps will also have a professional interest in the game, of course, with New England Revolution captain Jermaine Jones likely to start for the Americans. Jones has gone the full 90 minutes in each of New England’s last three games since fully recovering from bilateral sports hernia surgery.


Just one month ago Jones featured in a pair of games for the USMNT, starting against both Peru and Brazil, the latter in his club home at Gillette Stadium. Those experiences are key for Jones’ mentality according to Heaps, who believes the veteran midfielder is best when playing for club and country.


“When he’s at his best with the national team, he’s been playing better for his club team,” Heaps said. “I think he really takes that to heart and is prideful about that. That’s what we want.


“I think we’ve seen an uptick now that he’s getting back to full fitness and back to full health. You’re seeing him start to impose himself more on games. Hopefully he does it again on Saturday and we see it again at our game (next) Saturday (against the Montreal Impact).”


The USMNT will rely on Jones’ grit in central midfield against a technically-gifted Mexican side, with a berth in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup on the line. A stalwart on the 2014 FIFA World Cup squad, Jones has plenty of experience in matches of this magnitude.


American left back DaMarcus Beasley called Saturday’s showdown the second-biggest between the regional rivals, only falling behind the 2002 FIFA World Cup Round of 16 match in terms of importance.


Being involved in a game on that scale will only serve to benefit Jones before returning to the Revolution ahead of their final two regular-season games and a potential postseason run.


“When a player like that on your team plays in that game, guys are going to feed off that and ask him questions about that game and feel a part of that game because he’s there,” Heaps said. “That in itself is a leadership quality and why he wears the captain’s armband with Jose (Goncalves).


“I think we’ll, as a group, gain from his experience.”


It remains to be seen whether Jones will return to the Revs following Saturday’s match, or whether he’ll remain with the USMNT for Tuesday’s friendly against Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena. Reports indicate changes could be made to the roster between the two matches.


Either way, Heaps is confident Jones will return to the Revolution well equipped for the final two games of the regular season as they try to lock up their spot in the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs.