CHICAGO — Most longtime MLS and US national team observers will remember Jermaine Jones as a take-no-prisoners type, a hard-charging, plain-spoken box-to-box midfielder who was unafraid to get stuck in both on and off the field.
After a two-decades-long career across Germany, England and Turkey as well as MLS sides New England, Colorado and the LA Galaxy, the German-American dynamo has finally brought down the curtain on his playing days.
Now he’s writing a new chapter as a coach, and hopes to earn such an opportunity in Major League Soccer. That was one highlight among many in a wide-ranging, heartfelt one-on-one interview with broadcaster Brian Dunseth at the United Soccer Coaches Convention in Chicago last week.
What's JJ's favorite memory of his pro career? "The feeling of walking into a stadium and getting booed ... if you have a different color jersey than me, we have a problem." Says even now he never lets his kids win when they play - card games, whatever.— Charles Boehm (@cboehm) January 10, 2019
“I wanted to see how is the whole game, not only the top. I wanted to see the lower levels, just to understand how the system is really working,” said Jones, who until recently coached the U-18/19 U.S. Soccer Development Academy team at Los Angeles youth heavyweights Real So Cal as he worked through his coaching certifications.
“Coming back here and playing in MLS, it’s a different system to how it is in Europe, too, so I had to learn that. But I wanted to see deeper and understand the game, what’s going on. Especially coming with that background let me [have] the opportunity to give back, especially to the younger ones. I’m starting, and I have to learn, of course,” he added.
“When I [ran] my first training session, it was completely messed up – I had numbers wrong and everything, you know?” Jones confessed with a smile to his large audience of coaches. “But it’s a learning process and you go through that and then helping the kids, you see them come to the age where you were back in the day, you know? And now they’re having the opportunity to learn from me straightaway, it’s something that I really liked. I really enjoyed the time with the kids and I’m looking forward to what comes next.”
Jones worked his way up to nearly the top of the U.S. Soccer Federation’s coaching license process, then shifted to the UEFA structure via coursework offered by the Northern Ireland FA. He’ll finish that process in May and once that’s completed, he’s eager to throw his hat into the ring for vacancies on technical staffs in MLS, USL and beyond.
“I start with the youth now, [though] my end goal is to be professional,” he explained, “so I don’t jump straight into [coaching] professionals and maybe have to step back again when I have to learn more and get more into it.
“We have so much quality here, it’s unbelievable,” Jones said of the North American talent pool. “Now we have to just learn how we teach them, at a young age, to be already at 17, 18, ready to go and not 22, 23.”
Speaking to MLSsoccer.com after his convention session, the Eintracht Frankfurt academy product acknowledged that he’s inexperienced as a coach, at least compared to recent big-name arrivals in MLS like Frank de Boer and Matias Almeyda.
But he’s confident that with his deep background in both the German and US systems and broad network of contacts, he’s ready to assume greater responsibilities in the trade, and augment his own skill set with a staff of experienced assistants.