PANAMA CITY, Panama — Say what you will about Jermaine Jones’ attitude. Jurgen Klinsmann still thinks the Bundesliga enforcer makes a perfect captain for the young American team he has taken to Panama for Wednesday night’s friendly at Estadio Rommel Fernández (8:30 pm ET, ESPN3, Galavisión, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com).
While some have questioned the German coach for naming Jones to the January camp roster as he serves an eight-week suspension for stomping on the injured foot of Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Marco Reus in a German Cup matchup, Klinsmann says Jones brings a much-needed level of intensity to the young team.
“The fact that Jermaine is captain of this group is only because he has outstanding quality, and he raised the level of this group by coming in,” Klinsmann said Tuesday at the team hotel. “Jermaine is a player that is always on the edge, and he plays that way, and he has to deal with that. If you play that kind of game, and you step over it, like he did – step over and step on it – then you have to deal with that.”
The coach says that it was an easy to decision to bring the suspended midfielder into camp, given the level of quality he contributes to the young team. A few weeks’ training on this side of the Atlantic will also help Jones keep in shape while he sees out the lengthy suspension in Germany.
“He’s really appreciative that we’ve brought him in, it helps him bridge these two months as well,” Klinsmann said, "and helps us to raise the bar, raise the level within this group, so it’s a win-win."
Jones is an elder statesman in a camp featuring a number of younger MLS-based players. The German-American captained the USMNT for the first time against Venezuela, receiving his 15th cap in the process. After a standout performance in the 1-0 win, Klinsmann has no doubt who will wear the armband against Panama on Wednesday night, regardless of any objections over Jones’ occasional bad-boy antics.
“Everyone has his own opinion, that is cool with me,” the coach said. “I’m not putting too much into this. For me, it’s important what role does a player play within the national team picture, and how does he fit himself into this picture, and he’s doing that very well. Jermaine came in and raised the bar, within one session. If you see him interact, you know he’s a leader."