After suffering through a sports hernia surgery in February that kept him out during the opening of the MLS season, Jermaine Jones had to go through it all again this summer.
After 35 minutes against the LA Galaxy on May 31st, the New England Revolution midfielder had to be taken out of the game, with the surgery to fix an issue with a bilateral sports hernia soon to follow. That meant that the former Bundesliga player missed out on the 2015 Gold Cup, one that saw the US unceremoniously dumped out in the semifinals by Jamaica.
Jones' return to the United States team then couldn't come at a better time, with the CONCACAF Cup Final against Mexico just around the corner from friendlies in the next few days against Peru and Brazil.
"It's definitely important to have him back in the group," US manager Jurgen Klinsmann said on Thursday during a press conference. "His experience, his drive, his energy, and his way guiding people around him is very important. Similar to how Tim Howard is back with the group."
Jones himself admitted on Thursday that he's not quite at the point where he can play 90 minutes yet. Indeed, since making his return to MLS action a month ago, Jones has played just three times for the Revolution, once a short substitute appearance, and two starts, neither of which lasted more than 62 minutes.
"Every training I feel like I [take] a step forward. It's not easy for me to, but the whole process with the national team comes good for me," Jones told reporters. "We can push a little bit more, and hope that I can go 60-70 [minutes] against Peru, and maybe 90 against Brazil. And then go back to my team and play there too."
Klinsmann's goal with Jones will to be to get the 50-times capped Jones back integrated with the squad. Jones would have been an important piece to the Gold Cup puzzle for the US, but after tinkering with the squad throughout the tournament, Jones' arrival means that Klinsmann can count upon the former Schalke man.
"He's not 100 percent yet, we all know that. He hasn't picked up a rhythm yet, he's not at the physical capabilities that he usually brings into our group," Klinsmann added. "We will get Jermaine on the field, but certainly not for 90 minutes. He's needed in this group."
How Klismann uses Jones will be worth watching as well. After featuring as a midfielder during his entire career, Klinsmann opted to use Jones in the center of defense after last summer's World Cup. That move wasn't completely welcomed by Jones, but for these friendlies, Jones has been listed back amongst the midfielders.
"It's not a position I prefer. I prefer playing midfield," Jones told MLSsoccer.com in an interview back in January. "You have more, like, touch the ball, but the other point is [Klinsmann] has some ideas why he does it. I will take it and try to switch between midfield in New England and center back in the national team."
During the Gold Cup, Klinsmann seemed set on the pair of Ventura Alvardo and John Brooks in the heart of the defense, over the likes of Omar Gonzalez, and with Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler absent from the squad.
Meanwhile, Michael Bradley had his share of partners in midfield, playing alongside Kyle Beckerman, Mix Diskerud, Alfredo Morales, and Joe Corona at various points.
Jones, presumably, would slot right alongside Bradley to add even more experience in the midfield. But while Klinsmann wouldn't definitely tip his hand on Thursday, Jones said his focus was just getting back onto the field, and not worrying about where he is playing, or what level his fitness may be at.
"I try not to think about how much I can go. I try to go on the field and keep going. I have so much experience, if I feel something, I will tell [Klinsmann]. And from his side, if [Klinsmann] sees something, he will make the decision.