The Jermaine Jones saga is over with the U.S. MNT World Cup star landing in New England. The Revolution won an only in Major League Soccer, “Blind Draw,” over Chicago to acquire the services of the original Germerican, who started all four U.S. matches in Brazil.
Although the league does not release contract terms, Jones is said to have signed a Designated Player contract worth $4.5 to $4.7 million for 18 months. Jones had been out of contract after his deal with Bundesliga club Schalke expired. Jones last played for in Turkey for Besiktas,, on loan from Schalke.
The rugged, energetic Jones scored what was perhaps the best American goal of the World Cup when he struck from distance to tie the game against Portugal at 1-1. Clint Dempsey went on to put the U.S. ahead 2-1, before Silvestre Varela headed Cristiano Ronaldo’s cross past Tim Howard in added time to end the match at 2-2, breaking American hearts the world over in the process.
“I’m very excited to come to MLS and join the Revolution,” Jones stated. “New England is an exciting team on the rise, and I believe I can come in and help the team make a push toward MLS Cup. Playing with the U.S. National Team has given me a great connection with the American fans and I’m looking forward to playing in front of them every weekend. I’m ready to get started with the Revs.”
Jones certainly demonstrated that affinity for the U.S. spending time spending time all over the United States after the World Cup, filling social media with pictures of himself and a variety of celebrities.
Jones was originally linked with the Chicago Fire, and manager Frank Yallop stated on more than one occasion that the team was close to signing the midfielder. But with MLS being a single entity league things are never simple, and once the league got involved things got weird. MLS has final say over player transactions, and when Jones to Chicago hit a snag, New England entered the picture.
Both clubs were anxious to sign Jones, bringing about the blind draw. Here is how New England explained the process. “As a designated player of a certain threshold, Jones was not subject to allocation ranking for dispersal to an MLS team. The Revolution and Chicago Fire expressed an interest in Jones, and had the available salary budget and a designated player slot to accommodate him. Following a blind draw between the two clubs, Jones was assigned to the Revolution.”
MLS has been known to tweak the rules in the past to assure that star players land at their preferred destinations, and Jones apparently also received additional financial incentives to accept a move to New England, instead of first choice Chicago.
U.S. MNT teammates of Jones’s, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey, received similar considerations when they returned to the league, and Commissioner Don Garber once famously stated, “that as an emerging league, there are times when we are figuring out those rules as we go along.”
This would be seem to be one those cases, where the league is willing to accept a bit of ridicule in order to assure that a player of Jones’ caliber lands in MLS.
For their part Chicago took the news well, at least publicly, with Yallop releasing this statement. “The Chicago Fire Soccer Club has pursued Jermaine Jones as a free agent signing over the past month and a half, and have gone to great lengths to bring him into Major League Soccer and our organization. We thought that he’d be a great fit in Chicago,” said Yallop.
“While we’re deeply disappointed that he will not be a part of the Fire, we respect the system employed by MLS and wish Jermaine well with his new club. This result does not alter our vision of building a complete side and we’ll continue to move forward with this process as planned.”
This is an atypical move for the Revs, who have never been known to splash the cash, even though they are owned by New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft.
Jones, who will turn 33 in November, will likely need some time to get into game shape following his post World Cup activities, but when he steps onto the field at Gillette Stadium, the Revolution, and their playoff prospects, should be immediately improved.
New England currently sit just two points back of New York for the fifth and final Eastern Conference playoff slot, with Columbus and Toronto just two points better than the Red Bulls. First place DC United and second place Sporting KC are ahead of the pack with 43 and 42 points.
Jones will add some spine and guile to a young and talented New England midfield that features attack minded players like Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe and Diego Fagundez.
Revs coach Jay Heaps may opt to team Jones with defense first Scott Caldwell, so that Jones has the freedom to roam. Despite his age Jones showed in the World Cup that he is not a player to be tied down, making it key for the Revolution to have cover for his occasional flights of fancy.
Jones can deliver a killer pass, make crunching tackles all over the field, as well as chipping in with the occasional goal. And with his vast experience, including UEFA Champions League with Schalke, Heaps will be looking for Jones to provide leadership for this somewhat callow group.
The league may have massaged their own rules to make this happen, and why New England instead of Chicago is something we may never know, but ultimately Major League Soccer is a better league with players the caliber of Jermaine Jones playing in it.