It appears that Jermaine Jones has already found the perfect replacement for himself in the United States midfielder when he retires from international duty.
It's his New England Revolution teammate and holding midfield partner Scott Caldwell:
It's also not the first time Jones has had high praise for his young partner, as both he and head coach Jay Heaps gushed about the "selfless" nature of the Revs other center midfielder behind last year's MVP-candidate Lee Nguyen ahead of the Revs MLS Cup match last year.
"Scotty looks like a nice guy, but he's really tough to play against," Jones said in the New England Soccer Today article. "I think he (undertakes) a lot of work for both of us, and we have the freedom to go in front. We both love to play with him and he's a small pit bull."
There's something to be said about the consistency of a player like Caldwell, who rarely is going to show up on the score sheet. But his staggering passing numbers during his time as a starter have been rarely dipped below 80% in a single game and his current 2015 season average is 86% according to WhoScored.com.
Also of note, are his defensive statistics, and in particular, Caldwell's tackling which has improved considerably since his rookie year. Caldwell is averaging 3.6 tackles a game in 2015, not bad for a player who is listed at 5'8" and 150 lbs. There's a growing trend away from big, athletic center midfielders for the USA, instead a surging number of young prospects are more technical, smaller, quicker and Caldwell fits right in to that new trend.
And Caldwell is no stranger to the United States youth set up, he was a member of the U17 residency program and featured with the U18 team in a youth Olympic tournament in Australia in January of 2009 according to his bio.
But while Jones can campaign for his teammate all he wants, Caldwell will still have to break through a fairly talented crop of players that have received their first call ups under Jurgen Klinsmann. Perry Kitchen, Wil Trapp, Luis Gil and Fulham's Emerson Hyndman just to name a few that he would be competing with for a possible role in a center or holding midfield role.
And that's just the youngsters, there's still veterans like Michael Bradley and Mix Diskerud who appear to be mainstays for the upcoming cycles. So while it's not impossible for Caldwell to break into the squad, he's going to have to do it in a much different way. He's not going to be on highlight reels or routinely making Team of the Weeks in MLS, but as long as he keeps starting and making others around him better, he should be getting an international call up.
At some point, there is something to be said for consistency, and while Caldwell may not be considered by some to be as talented, or as physical, as some of the players mentioned above he's rarely ever had a bad game. There is value in having a player like Caldwell who's willing to do a lot of behind the scenes work and take pressure off of other players.
They aren't a similar type of player, but the comparison I'll use here is Kyle Beckerman. No, Scotty is never going to be much of an aerial threat, but Beckerman was arguably one of the best American players at the World Cup last summer with his consistent and solid play that helped bridge the build up play out of the back and help the USA maintain possession.
And Scott Caldwell can fill that role. He might not be a defensive force in stature but he can make up for it in other ways, his positioning, anticipation and overall effort. Creating turnovers with pressure will never show up in the box score, but how often does Caldwell create or recover a ball and start a counter for the Revolution? And how bad does the USMNT need a player like that when the long ball isn't working?
I hope Jermaine Jones' statement carries enough weight for Caldwell to at the very least get a look with the US national team at some point. He's young and talented enough at this point to have a decent career at the international level, maybe play in some qualifiers or a Gold Cup or two. But there's a staggering number of good players that never get call ups, I'll mention Chris Tierney for the Revs here, and Caldwell already has long odds being so far removed from the US youth set up.
We all know just how difficult it is to become an regular as an international player. But there are times when you aren't looking for the best player, sometimes you have to be looking for the right one.
Scott Caldwell wound be the right player for the United States. Jermaine Jones wouldn't say it if he didn't believe it.