For the first time in 2015, Jermaine Jones joined his New England Revolution teammates on the training field, finally returning from off-season surgery for a sports hernia that prevented him from training with the club in preseason.
And Jones has arguably been chomping at the bit to get back into game shape and onto the field again. He's in Colorado with the Revs for today's game at Dick's Sporting Goods Park, a place where he has fond memories of for a certain United States qualifier played in the snow two years ago:
When Jones and the team spoke to the media at practice, his head coach in particular seemed pleased about his progress.
"It's good to get him back in," coach Jay Heaps told the media during availability at practice earlier this week. "Having the surgery and doing the rehab in LA was really good for him. He's starting to get closer to game speed. He needs a little bit more time around the ball and around the guys, and that's what we're going to do over the next couple of days and weeks and months."
Jones lives in Los Angeles with his family and stayed in the area after the United States' friendly with Panama to rehab the injury as it was assumed he was injured on international duty. But as it turns out, Jones had been dealing with the issue all the way back to the World Cup and before joining the Revs.
"The first time I feel it was in Germany, but I keep going," said Jones. "There was not a real chance to take the break. Normally I was saying that after the World Cup I'm going to do it, but then everything moved here. Then I said okay, after the [MLS Cup] final I'll do it. Then [USMNT] January camp, Jurgen [Klinsmann] said 'I want you to come in.' Then I saw the chance with all this talk with the league and the players."
It was a curious time for Jones to have the procedure to correct the sports hernia, but for a player who didn't have as long as an off-season after the World Cup and jumped right into the MLS season, going forward with the surgery was the right decision. Whether or not Jones should have attended the USMNT camp is irrelevant at this point, and I'm sure having the ability to rehab out in California and spend time with his family was very beneficial to him personally.
But the important thing as far as the Revs are concerned is that Jermaine Jones is nearly back to full strength and ready to rejoin the lineup. Better yet, he'll be at 100%, something he wasn't as the Revs made a tremendous late season run into the playoffs and MLS Cup. If Jermaine Jones dealing with constant pain can be that effective on the field for New England, I can't wait to see what he can do when fully healthy.
And after a longer off-season than Revs fans hoped for, Jones still has the right attitude about winning.
"For me it’s always, if I got pain somewhere on my body, this is not a problem. I don’t care if I have to get a yellow card or go against my teammates sometimes, I want to win the games. I think last season you can see that. We lost the finals and that’s the point that’s pushed me this season. I want to go there again, but this time we’ll try to get that cup."
But it gets better, Jones loves playing soccer so much that he wanted to play three games in five days last October, a weekend Revs game at Montreal followed by a midweek game at Houston. In between there was a USA-Honduras friendly in Florida and Jones started and played all 90 minutes in the first two games before coming off the bench against the Dynamo.
"He wanted to go Saturday-Tuesday-Thursday, which is almost impossible. But he ended up playing in that (Houston) game, and having a big assist coming off the bench," said Jay Heaps from this New England Soccer Today article. "But that's the mentality that he has. He's a gamer, and you'd rather have that than a guy that's conservative and holding back."
Yes, it probably would have been better for the Revs if Jones opted for the surgery instead of the USMNT camp but then we're being selfish as Revs fans. Jones really enjoys playing soccer, club or country doesn't matter, he wants to be out on the field. He's a gamer, someone who's going to be out on the field even if he's not at 100% to give his all for his teammates.
It's not important that Jones missed the month of March even as the Revs struggled to get going a little bit. It's not even important that he plays today in Colorado against the Rapids, likely as a substitute in the second half. What is important is that the Revs are hitting their stride on both offense and defense and Jones is only going to help out on both sides of the ball.
Because four or five games to start the year is not nearly as important as those four to five games in November when the playoff start.
That's when the Revs will need Jermaine Jones at his best.