A long list of circumstances led to Jermaine Jones joining the Revolution as a designated player last week. But probably none was more significant than the goal Jones scored for the United States in the World Cup in Brazil.
At least two MLS teams — the Chicago Fire and the Revolution — had been looking for a skillful veteran who could consolidate the midfield, be a leader, and also be a charismatic off-field attraction.
Before the World Cup, though, nobody was able to figure out Jones was that guy.
“There was zero market for him in MLS,” a source close to the negotiations said. “Then, he scored that goal in the World Cup and he became a hot commodity. It’s not like he got a lot better during the World Cup — but before that they said teams would never pay DP money for him. He was on 2 million [euros] net in Europe and they said teams would never pay anything close to that.”
Then, last Sunday it was announced Jones had been assigned to the Revolution in a blind draw. Jones’s payday would be similar to what he had earned playing on loan from FC Schalke 04 in Germany’s Bundesliga to Besiktas in Turkey — $4.3 million for an 18-month contract, according to a league source.
So, what changed?
You have to go back to June 22, the second half of the US-Portugal game at Arena Amazonia in Manaus. In the 64th minute, Jones decided to crank a shot from 25 yards, the ball curling into the far side of the net, tying the score, 1-1. The US then went ahead on a Clint Dempsey goal before surrendering a late tying score and earning a point. That result turned out to be enough for the team to advance to the second round of the World Cup.
“In Germany, I was the guy who stays and does not go so much in front, but Jurgen Klinsmann,” Jones said, referring to the US national team coach, “he gives me that role where I can go everywhere I want to go — he knows I like to run all over the place. Against Portugal it was a tough game and we come into halftime and a lot of players were saying when we have a chance, to shoot. And Jurgen comes to me and says you shoot a lot in training and you always have the chance to score goals in training, so when you have the chance, shoot. So, we go out in the second half — in the first half there was a similar situation and they blocked the shot — so I tried the shot again and the ball goes in. And the rest is, you know, you saw it.”
Many people saw it.
And all of a sudden, when they watched Jones, they didn’t just see the studs-up challenges, the yellow cards, the suspensions (including an eight-gamer for stomping on an opponent in 2010). They began to see a playmaking midfielder who wants the ball and can do something creative with it. Instead of disparaging Jones’s hard-tackling style, critics termed it inspiring. Jones’s leadership qualities emerged, he showed he could make less-experienced teammates better.
Instead of questioning Jones’s loyalties, doubters began embracing his German-American background. Having grown up not knowing his father had been imprisoned made Jones a sympathetic figure. The dreads and the tatts? Good for drawing attention to the league. As for the glamorous offseason lifestyle, SoCal mansion, beauty queen wife — who knew?
Along with the new image came renewed interest from MLS.
The Fire were the first suitors on Jones’s doorstep following his return from the World Cup last month, making an offer in late July coach Frank Yallop was “hoping” he would take. Meanwhile, the Revolution stepped in and made a claim, though the team didn’t announce its interest until Aug. 8.
Because the league office administers all player contracts, Chicago’s courtship of Jones could be considered premature or unofficial. It was not until the week before the Aug. 6 All-Star Game that MLS began serious negotiations with Jones, and that was when the Revolution became involved, according to a league source.
Jones, it turned out, filled the Revolution’s requirements of a designated player candidate.
“We’re a young team with a lot of talent,” Revolution owner/operator Jonathan Kraft said. “But a veteran presence who’s been in big-time situations can be a stabilizing influence on the pitch and can also teach a lot of our young, talented players about what it means to be a professional at the highest level. Plus, he’s a charismatic, dynamic, energetic player that I think our fans are going to enjoy coming to watch play, which is also something we wanted to achieve. He fits exactly what we want — a ball-winning midfielder who is a presence in there.’’
There was also speculation that Jones, 32, would be claimed by Chivas USA, attractive to Jones because he bought a house in Hollywood from actress Tori Spelling in 2010 and because both his father and Klinsmann reside in Southern California.
“My father will still be there when I come home,” Jones said. “So, it’s no problem.”
Jones and his father were out of contact for 20 years. In 1987, military police arrested Halbert Jones, who served seven-plus years of a 52-year sentence for cocaine and heroin distribution and smuggling charges at the Military Correctional Complex at Fort Leavenworth.
Jones’s mother, Barbara, did not reveal to her children what had happened. And it was not until Nov. 2, 2007, the night before Jones’s 26th birthday, that he received a call from his father, the reunion set up by Jones’s wife, Sarah.
“It’s always nice when you have your family back,” Jones said. “So, for a long, long time we had no contact. We got back in touch, and after that day we stayed in touch. So, I’m happy not only for me, but I’m happy my brother [Kevin] and sister [Natasha] have him too, and my kids have a granddad and they can see him. It’s nice for everybody that the family is together. It’s nice.”
During an interview in the Revolution player lounge at Gillette Stadium last week, Jones said he did not want to be specific about conversations with his father.
“This is private stuff,” Jones said. “I told him, already he knows I don’t look back at what [happened] between my parents. It’s like, nothing that makes me think [badly] about him. For me, it’s this day where I met him, he’s back in my life, back in my life for my family, my sister and brother. We want to look forward and have a good time.”
Though he grew up without a father in Bonames, a section of Frankfurt with an unsavory reputation, Jones appears to have adjusted, landing on his feet in the land of his dreams.
“Depends, maybe you go there and you say it’s bad — for me it wasn’t bad,” Jones said of Bonames.
Where the bad-boy rep comes out is on the field.
“I think this is a part of leadership,” Jones said. “I’m the guy who has to make the decision, maybe, a tactical foul, or make sometimes a foul that you wake up your team — and you take it. And I can live with that. People say you always have so many yellow cards. But I showed the people at the World Cup and I showed at the Champions League, in the group you only have the chance for two [cautions] and you’ll be suspended. And I showed I can control it. If I have to do it for the team I will do it.”