CARSON, Calif. – It had seemed Jurgen Klinsmann's Jermaine Jones experiment, in which he took a good look at the veteran midfielder in central defense, ended after last year's “January” camp.
It hadn't been a good fit, not with Jones' penchant for surging forward on a whim.
So what was going on in the US national team's 1-0 victory Friday night over Canada in a StubHub Center friendly, with Jones partnering Matt Besler at center back?
Nothing much, it turned out.
A shortage of central defenders and the desire to team Michael Bradley with Mix Diskerud in midfield ahead of next month's World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala, matches Jones will miss through suspension, led Klinsmann to shake things up a bit at the back.
“Me and him, we talked about it,” Jones said. “Of course, I always like to play more in midfield, but end of the day, I know I'm suspended for the two games [coming up] against Guatemala, and he wanted to try some new stuff and wanted to see who fit together for that game. So it was OK for me.”
Jones was fine at the back as the US limited Canada, which faded as the game wore on, to just four shots, none on frame, but it was clear that he sees the position as something of a straitjacket.
He'd played there four times previously for the US.
“I'm not a real center back,” he said, “so I'm always trying to go a little bit more forward and push.”
Klinsmann said he asked Jones to go to the back after Michael Orozco's return to Club Tijuana and a minor hamstring injury to Brad Evans left him with a shortage of central defenders.
“You're running out of center backs, you're running out of players,” said Klinsmann, who opted to play D.C. United center back Steve Birnbaum at right back. “I couldn't fly anybody in from Europe or Mexico. [Jones] helped us out. He tried his best to play that role, and we're very appreciative of that.”
It took some convincing.
“I was OK with it,” Jones said. “Of course, the day when I heard it, I wasn't happy about it. I don't love that position – it's not my favorite position – but end of the day, I have to understand that the coach, he wants to try some stuff and see some other players in that [midfield] position, especially for the two games coming up.”
Jones is ineligible for the qualifiers while he serves his suspension for making contact with referee Mark Geiger after he was sent off as New England was eliminated from the MLS playoffs last October at D.C. United. He is now without a club – he said last week that the length of the suspension was keeping European suitors away – and can't start whittling down the total until he finds a new club and starts playing in competitive matches.
“It's a very frustrating situation for us, with the national team, with that six-game suspension, because it hurts us tremendously not having him with us in Guatemala,” Klinsmann said. “... But we have to take it that way, and, hopefully, they're finding a solution and, hopefully, Jermaine finds a personal solution as quickly as possible. But it was cool that he gave everything there.”