As the New England Revolution shake off the cobwebs from their first bye week off the MLS season and ready to host the Houston Dynamo on Saturday, a great deal of attention is again on the physical status of Jermaine Jones.
The Designated Player, who had previously undergone surgery to repair a bilateral sports hernia, made his return to the fold in the Revs' 3-1 victory over Toronto FC on August 1. He came on for the final 14 minutes of that contest, but is already chomping at the bit to increase his workload, all while being conscious of physical limitations.
"Of course I’ll try to get the most time I can, but I think 60 minutes or something like that will be the right decision right now," Jones said before training on Tuesday. "We’ll see how the week goes."
As the American international is nursed back to full health and his participation increases, Jay Heaps and the rest of the Revolution coaching staff will ultimately gauge how much Jones can contribute against the Dynamo.
When speaking to the media prior to Tuesday's rainy training session, Heaps was a little bit more reserved than the main man himself, but did allude to his star player seeing more minutes.
"It was a good week for him, but in assessing 90 minutes fit, or 60 minutes fit, or 30 minutes fit we’re going to do that this week," he said.
Still, Heaps acknowledged the tangible and subtle impacts that Jones provides when he dons the red, white, and blue jersey. Whether it is a lung-busting recovery run to track an opposition midfielder or a cross-field switch that opens up the attack, Jones influence extends far and wide.
He lifts the attitude and approach of his 10 teammates and altogether makes the Revs a more complete and threatening team.
"For us first and foremost he does make us a better team," Heaps said. "When he’s on the field the guys around him really feel stronger with his presence. I think that’s step one and now can we. Now, can we get him back to the level he was at last year and at the beginning of this year before the injury? He’s been there in training and he was there the other night in the game."
The exact role Jones will play on Saturday evening remains to be seen, but there is no denying his eagerness and excitement to be out there fighting and providing all he can.
His recovery, as aided by the bye week and a rich run of form for the Revs, has been full of patient moments. But even Jones is hoping that he doesn't have to be patient too much longer.
"I think it’s important to get back on the field," Jones said. "This is the last part where you can get all the fitness back. You can do outside running, but it’s always different in a game. The games come and we don’t have many left, and I want to be on the field as soon as possible."