BOSTON – This is what Jermaine Jones has been working so hard to get back to.
Disappointed at missing out on the Gold Cup this summer following surgery to repair a bilateral sports hernia, he instantly expressed his desire to get back to the US national team when he returned to training for the New England Revolution at the end of June.
This month's friendlies vs. Peru and Brazil were his target and after three games back with the Revs, Jones finally returned to USMNT action on Friday night against Peru, logging 72 minutes of time in Jurgen Klinsmann’s midfield.
“I’m always happy and I always say that if I play for my club team and I’m not injured that I want to play for the national team,” said Jones after the Yanks moved north to Massachusetts ahead of Tuesday's clash with Brazil at Gillette Stadium (8 pm ET, ESPN2/WatchESPN/UniMás/UDN).
“I think this makes everyone proud on this team when you can wear that jersey. Same with me too. I like to play against big countries, against big players and Brazil, this is that game where everyone wants to play. I like to battle with these kind of players.”
Jones will have the added advantage of playing on his home turf on Tuesday night – albeit with a different surface, as temporary grass has been laid over Gillette's artificial pitch.
“We will see Tuesday how it goes. I play at my stadium, so I know the stadium,” he said. “I know it will be grass now, not turf. I try to enjoy it, that’s what I always try to do.”
Jones is also enjoying this particular run with the USMNT because of the timing of it all. In the three games played with New England since his return, he has averaged just over 40 minutes per game. But despite having to miss one of his club matches, he will have two opportunities to gain more match fitness at international level, something he feels is crucial to him returning to top form heading into both a Revs playoff run and the USA's big CONCACAF Cup tilt vs. Mexico on October 10.
“That all these games come now, I would say it’s pretty good for me to get a lot of games in,” Jones told MLSsoccer.com on Sunday. “After injuries you can do a lot of running on your own, but at the end of the day you have to come on the field and get the ball a little bit. It’s different fitness.
“It was pretty good that these two games come now. My team, New England, of course we try to get in the playoffs, we try to get as far as possible. And in other ways for the national team, Tuesday is important, but the Mexico game will be the main game for the national team.”
While Jones stopped short of putting out a certain number of minutes that he might be capable of on Tuesday night, the 72 minutes against Peru are a great indication that he is getting closer to his peak.
Though he is not yet where he wants to be, he's confident that it’s only a matter of time.
“I don’t like it to call numbers,” said Jones on if he is ready to play a full 90 minutes. “I try always to see, like we said this game with Peru, maybe 45 minutes and see how it is. Then I feel good and we keep going. If I go 90, I don’t know. I hope I start and then we go from there. I say that, of course after 11 weeks I cannot be straight at 100 percent. But, I try to build up, get better and stronger and I hope that everybody try to help me and we get it really quick that I’ll be back 100 percent.”