Jurgen Klinsmann Fails USMNT with Continuation of Jermaine Jones Experiment

Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2016

Nov 13, 2015; St.Louis, MO, USA; USA midfielder Jermaine Jones (13)  chases after a loose ball during the second half of a FIFA World Cup Qualifying soccer match against St. Vincent & The Grenadines at Busch Stadium. USA won 6-1. Mandatory Credit: Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports
Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

U.S. men's national soccer team manager Jurgen Klinsmann is no stranger to lining up his best players in different positions.

Sometimes the experiments work. Just look at how well defensive midfielder Kellyn Acosta performed at left-back against Iceland and Canada. However, on some occasions, Klinsmann's experiments fail miserably, like the Jermaine Jones center back experiment.

Due to the lack of international experience at the position on the January roster, Klinsmann slotted Jones next to defender Matt Besler in the middle of the USMNT defense for this past Friday's match against Canada.

What followed was the expected cavalcade of lackadaisical play and boneheaded errors from the 34-year-old, who is currently unattached to a club team.

Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

Jones displayed his regular tendencies of meandering forward and failing to get back on defense, and he even delivered a trademark crunching challenge. Luckily for the Yanks, it wasn't called a penalty.

To his credit, Jones was active in the opening stretches of the match, and he made a key challenge on Tesho Akindele in the penalty area in the fifth minute. But that was one of the few highlights of the match for the regular defensive midfielder.

Jones was a constant presence over the midfield stripe, but he was more of a nuisance than anything. In the 15th minute, Jones had the ball at his feet in the middle of the park and overhit a pass that ended a nice attacking buildup by the Yanks.

Thirteen minutes into the second half, Jones fully displayed his selfishness again as he rose for a header at the top of the box with midfielder Mix Diskerud waiting to strike on a set play off a Michael Bradley corner kick. Due to Jones' attempt to be the hero in front of the net, the set piece did not produce a goal, and the team failed to create any chances in the final third.

The bigger errors in Jones' game came in key moments on the defensive side of the field. Jones, who played for the New England Revolution in 2015, went in hard on Akindele on the edge of the box in the 20th minute. The crunching sliding challenge should've produced a free kick just outside the penalty area or a shot from the spot. Luckily for Jones and the Yanks, the referee didn't call anything.

Jones' most egregious error of the match may have come in the 43rd minute, when he made an overlapping run on the right wing and failed to track back. With no one behind him to protect the net, Besler conceded a foul and picked up a yellow card.

If Klinsmann continues to place Jones in the middle of his defense, he will witness the same issuesbut against much better teams that will actually capitalize on the mistakes made by Jones. But in all honesty, this shouldn't even be a discussion in the first place.

Jones is not a center back, at least not right now, because of his tendencies to move forward and pump balls into the attack from a role in midfield. If Jones were to put the effort in at the club level to become a well-rounded center back, then it would be reasonable for Klinsmann to use him as a center back on the international stage.

Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

Despite observing the obvious skill set Jones has, Klinsmann neglected the development of younger players by placing Jones at center back. Yes, Klinsmann was in a bind once 20-year-old Matt Miazga left the January camp to sign with Chelsea, but he still had 25-year-old Steve Birnbaum, who impressed in the second half against Iceland, and 22-year-old Tim Parker ready to step in.

Instead of working the pair of young players into the defense next to Besler, Klinsmann started Birnbaum at right back and handed Parker zero playing time. Klinsmann's lack of faith in his younger players failed him on Friday night, despite eking out a 1-0 victory in front of a small crowd at the StubHub Center.

The last four weeks of training and two friendlies were supposed to be about development, especially in the back four, where the Yanks have shown plenty of weak spots during the Klinsmann era. By putting a known quantity in Jones at center back on Friday, Klinsmann failed to develop his young players.

In the long run, this may not turn out to be a big issue with Miazga, 30-year-old Geoff Cameron and 23-year-old John Brooks in the fold, but Klinsmann's decision to start Jones continued a disappointing trend of the USMNT boss trying to fit square pegs into round holes.


Joe Tansey covers U.S. Soccer for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90