COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Jermaine Jones facing his former team? Not so fast, my friend.
The 34-year-old midfielder has been with the US national team while he continues to rehab a knee injury, and while he will return to the club this week he is expected to once again be absent from the Rapids lineup when Colorado travels to face New England on Saturday (7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
The game against the Revolution will mark the ninth that Jones has missed for the Rapids since he went down with an injury in a July 4 game against the Portland Timbers. Despite his lack of activity at the club level, USMNT boss Jurgen Klinsmann opted to include Jones in a training camp ahead of World Cup qualifiers against St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad & Tobago over the coming week.
“I had spoken to Jurgen [Klinsmann] and he wanted to see where he was at, see if he could possibly contribute to the group,” Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni said of Jones’ latest international call up. “[Klinsmann] wanted him in and around the group and around their medical staff as well, who we’ve been in contact with. It’s an opportunity for him to go and for them to see where he’s at.”
Mastroeni is avoiding any hard timeline on Jones’ anticipated return, but remains optimistic that the recent call-up is a sign that the midfielder’s recovery is trending in a positive direction.
“I think so, I hope so,” Mastroeni said. “I think this has been one of the more difficult injuries that he’s had to deal with individually and us as a collective group as well. It’s been difficult, almost more psychologically than physically. Hopefully we’re at a point where we’re turning the corner and can make some good progress over the next couple of weeks.”
Jones’ on-field presence has been sorely missed by the Rapids in the games since he sustained the injury against Portland. Colorado have posted just two wins in the eight matches since, while averaging just over a goal per game. Jones leads Colorado with 0.38 goals per 90 minutes, despite missing 17 games this season due to suspension, injury and international duty.
“I think he’s proven over the course of his career that he’s an influential member of whatever team he’s on,” Mastroeni said of Jones’ influence on the Rapids’ results this season. “Not only does it help our team in the way we want to play and get after it, I think he’s been really good for us instigating the attacks, instigating our defense, and really being a focal point of what we do on both sides of the ball. It has an influence on our group and a psychological impact on the opponents we play.”
Even with the recent dip in form, the Rapids have remained afloat in the Western Conference playoff race; it's a stark contrast from a Revolution side which lost 8 of 13 matches when Jones went down to injury in 2015.
“For having such an influential player be out almost eight weeks now, it speaks volumes to the culture, the team and all of the players that have stepped up in his absence,” Mastroeni added. “You get to see the character of the guys who have to step up in his absence and it’s been remarkable.”
But with Marlon Hairston (lower body) and Sebastian Le Toux (back) questionable for Saturday's game, along with five Rapids out on international duty, the trip to New England will prove to be another gut check for Colorado.
“Depth is tested every game of the year,” Mastroeni emphasized. “It will test the group as a whole. That’s why we build a team. If it was about individuals, we would all be boxers. But we’re soccer players, we rely on a team to be successful.”