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September 7, 2015
But Mexico still the target for U.S. Men

By Frank Dell'Apa
Soccer News Net Contributing Editor

Jurgen Klinsmann is expecting Jermaine Jones to take up his leadership role with the U.S. Men's National Team
Jurgen Klinsmann is expecting Jermaine Jones to take up his leadership role with the U.S. Men's National Team
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
BOSTON – It is rare for anyone to look past an opponent such as Brazil, but that is what the U.S. national team almost has to be doing this week.

The U.S. will meet the Brazilians in a friendly match Tuesday night at Gillette Stadium, and coach Jurgen Klinsmann is attempting to focus on both the Seleção and the Oct. 10 Confederations Cup playoff with Mexico.

That is one reason Clint Dempsey has not been called to make the trip from Seattle. Better for Dempsey to rest a thigh strain than clash with the Brazilians.

It is also a reason to get Jermaine Jones back into the midfield mix. Jones recently returned to the New England Revolution after nearly a three-month absence following sports hernia surgery. Jones played 60-plus minutes in a 2-1 U.S. win over Peru in Washington, D.C., Friday and is expected to go about the same amount of time against Brazil.

Klinsmann was clearly pleased to have Jones sitting next to him during a press conference Monday at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Klinsmann has been a fan of Jones since attempting to recruit him as coach of the German national team from 2004-06.

“He brings a lot to the team, there’s no doubt about it,” Klinsmann said of Jones.

Jones’ motivational presence, plus his wide-ranging midfield style and ability to provide long balls to the wings, are unique qualities. Klinsmann said Jones will remain in midfield after a two-game, mostly unproductive, stint in central defense earlier this year.

“Playing him in the center back role was to fill in because some players weren’t available and to see how he enjoys it and if that could be an option, also, going forward,” Klinsmann said of Jones. “And just having his presence around the group, having his experience and his drive – because he’s always been a very, very driven and hungry player throughout his career no matter where he played – is very important to us.

“So, having him back in the picture after a couple setbacks injury-wise, is very crucial, especially toward the Mexico clash, there’s no doubt about it. He’s still in a rebuilding process, fitness-wise, which only will get better. We still have another, more than four weeks to Oct. 10. So having him back in shape and in rhythm makes us feel much better, there’s no doubt about it.”

Jones will be playing on his current home field, the Gillette turf covered by a grass surface. Jones will be in the mentor role, as he is with the Revolution.

“You go in these games and you have respect,” Jones said. “Of course, they have the big names in there. But I like to always go into games and say I know them before and maybe they don’t know me. But after the game I want them to know me, too.”

That is Jones’ message to young U.S. players such as Gyasi Zardes.

“Maybe Neymar doesn’t know Zardes right now,” Jones said. “But if he makes a good game people will say this kid is a good kid.”

The Kids from the U.S. have a 1-16-0 record against the Boys from Brazil since 1930.

Jones and Klinsmann are attempting to change expectations for the U.S.

“I think games like these are really crucial for the players,” Klinsmann said, “in terms of psychological preparation, to have an understanding how important the mental side really is in our game. Just believing you can play against the best in the world and actually do well against the best in the world. To build this kind of understanding and feeling is very, very important and you only get that if you play them. If you don’t play them then you never know can I actually play with these guys?

“So, this learning curve means a lot. I actually spoke with the players yesterday and we talked about when you play teams like Brazil or Argentina or Holland or Italy or Germany, if you have too much respect for them – which we all have respect for them – but if you have too much respect for them then you can really get crushed.

“They sense that right away. They go on the field and they smell each other. And if you give them the taste like, okay, you know what, it’s Brazil! It’s the yellow jersey and we’re backing off here, then good luck. Then it can really end up in a lesson and we don’t want to end up in a lesson in terms of result – we want to give them a game. So, these type of countries, you have to be confident and give them a game and get in their face, be aggressive, you know. Be ready for going to the limit physically.

“Because they are smart, they let the ball do the work and you might chase the ball like we did for 20 minutes against Peru. And then we got into their face better, we stepped it up higher and suddenly, we have a game. We get them into defense more than attacking. We have respect, but not too much respect. These games for Gyasi, (DeAndre) Yedlin, you come out of these games and say I can do it, like we did in Europe.”

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