COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – With the addition of Jermaine Jones, the Colorado Rapids have arguably signed their best defensive midfielder since current head coach Pablo Mastroeni retired as a player.
“He is the type of person who can make the players around him better, just like Pablo did,” Rapids technical director Paul Bravo said of Jones. “He demands and expects a high level of accountability from himself, which allows him to be a leader through his actions. It’s exactly in the same mold that Pablo played in.”
Colorado acquired the US international from the New England Revolution last week in a sign-and-trade deal that saw the Rapids give up general allocation money and their first-round pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft.
Jones spoke to reporters in an introductory press conference on Wednesday, explaining why Colorado was one of the preferred landing destinations his agent sought for him in a potential move.
“I think it’s the challenge,” Jones said. “We know how last season ended [in Colorado]. It’s a young team now for the new season. It all points to where I want to go in a new challenge; making this team into a team that’s not on the bottom. Maybe we can make it a little bit higher and into the playoffs."
The 34-year-old joins a revamped Rapids roster which features key offseason additions Shkelzen Gashi and Marco Pappa, and the team remains linked to a move for USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard.
“This will be the most competitive team I think this club will put together in the history of the club when we're done,” Mastroeni told reporters last week.
“Maybe I can be the last piece on a young team,” added Jones. “For me that was a positive to move forward.”
A variety of factors played into Jones’ landing in Colorado, including his search for a team which was in close proximity to his wife Sarah and their four children, who currently reside in the Los Angeles area.
“It’s the whole package what I got here,” Jones said. “It’s close to home in LA. But then you have a real soccer stadium with a main focus on soccer.
"… [In Colorado] you have a young team with 16 new players. You see that the club wants to build something. That’s a key point too.”
The Rapids will have to wait before the team’s newest addition takes the field, however. Jones is currently serving a six-match suspension stemming from his interaction with match official Mark Geiger in the late stages of the Revs’ 2-1 playoff loss to D.C. United last October.
The suspension means Jones won’t be available until the Rapids’ April 16 home match against Supporters’ Shield winners New York Red Bulls.
“There’s not too much to say anymore,” Jones said of the suspension. “For me, it’s done and I’m thankful that I’m getting the opportunity here in Colorado and they’re trusting me. People who know me know that I’ll always try to get their trust back.”
When Jones does play his first home game with the Rapids, it will be his first match at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park since the infamous “Snow Clasico” back in March of 2013 when the USMNT defeated Costa Rica 1-0 in an actual snowstorm. (Jones was not in the 18 for the Revs' 2-0 win there on April 4, 2015.)
“That was a tough game and a cold game,” he smiled. “I came here two times and I won with the national team. When I step there for the first time for Colorado, I want to try the best and win.”
While Jones has yet to train with the team, he’s already shown an impact among his Rapids teammates.
Pappa, who played alongside another US International in Clint Dempsey during his time with the Seattle Sounders, explained the importance of having a US national team player on the current Rapids squad.
“At the end of the day, we all fight for the same goals and these kind of players are competitive players and teammates,” said Pappa. "They want the best for themselves and for the team.”
Jones doesn’t just want the best for his teammates; he’s eager to get to work.
“My goal is to put last season completely away,” Jones said. “The main key is the [new players] now we have to fit together like a crew. Only teams who win get respect.”