FOX Soccer Exclusive
Cameron, Jones perform for Klinsmann
If Jurgen Klinsmann was looking for some players to step up on Saturday night and show they deserve higher rankings on his US national team depth chart, two players stood front and center.
Jermaine Jones and Geoff Cameron were the biggest winners from Saturday’s 1-0 win versus Venezuela, a match that was at times disjointed and disappointing, but a match that saw the US team press hard for a winner in the second half and ultimately prevail.
There were several players who had good moments, but Jones and Cameron put together the kind of efforts that should keep them both in Klinsmann’s plans as he constructs the team that will lead the United States through World Cup qualifying. Jones dominated play in midfield and delivered the game-winning assist on Ricardo Clark's last-minute goal, while Cameron led a US defense that kept Venezuela from creating anything offensively.
It wasn’t tough to predict that Jones would play well. He is in mid-season form with German power Schalke, and a month-long suspension for stamping on an opponent opened the door for him to join Klinsmann’s January camp. He jumped at the opportunity and dove right into training sessions with mostly novice national team players, elevating the play in camp and setting the bar high for those players hoping to make their mark.
“He arrived on the night of the 14th and the next day he practiced twice,” Klinsmann said of Jones. “Everyone could see why he was playing with a Champions League team. He elevated the group within one training session with his energy and with his leadership.”
The same applied against Venezuela, where his imposing presence and tireless work all over the field stifled a Venezuelan side that didn’t put a single shot on US goalkeeper Bill Hamid.
The performance was an important one for Jones, who hasn’t received many minutes under Klinsmann. Behind the likes of Kyle Beckerman, Maurice Edu and Michael Bradley in Klinsmann’s central midfield pecking order, Jones sent a clear message that he wants more time.
Cameron certainly earned himself more national team chances in his first start, a composed and impressive performance that saw him handle every challenge he faced with ease. It also saw him flashing the passing quality that makes him a special center back prospect.
“Geoff is a real joy to work with because he is very focused,” Klinsmann said. “He is really dedicated to everything he’s doing, and we asked him to guide the back line, together with Michael Parkhurst, to push it high up, and to kind of develop his (passes) and play his (passes) straight into midfield and even into forwards.
“We’re impressed at how he’s doing that,” Klinsmann said. “We knew he had the talent to do that, but then to implement it is another story. You might have the talent, but you don’t implement it on the international stage. He did that tonight.
“That should give him a lot of confidence,” Klinsmann said. “Now he has to show it again in Panama. These are the games where a Geoff Cameron, and all these guys, need those games to be consistent with what they do.”
Nobody should punch Cameron’s ticket into the full senior team lineup just yet. Venezuela’s lineup on Saturday didn’t exactly provide the kind of stiff test Cameron will see has he climbs the national team depth chart, but it is certainly a good first step for him. If Saturday was the first test for Cameron, he passed it easily. The next one comes on Wednesday, on the road against a Panama side that will present tougher match-ups for the Houston Dynamo defender.
As for Jones, he responded well to being named captain for Saturday’s match. His leadership and embracing of his young and inexperienced teammates made an impression Klinsmann, as did his stellar play.
“These young players are all hungry to make the next step, and want to know how to get to the next level,” Klinsmann said. “Jermaine jumped in and talked with the guys and took care of it, and that’s why it was an easy decision to make him a captain.
“We also wanted to give him a signal that we want this type of leadership from him.”
For Jones, the experience was a refreshing one and a decent consolation prize for having to miss a chunk of the Bundesliga season due to suspension. He looked like he was having fun in his new role, and aside from some unforced turnovers he committed as he tried to deliver passes all over the field, Jones’ night was outstanding.
“I think what was important to see tonight is that everyone was rooting for the other guys,” Jones said. “I was happy to be captain tonight, but the important thing was we played a good game tonight as a team.”
It was a team that struggled at times, but one that did very well to pull out a victory. Cameron’s poise in the back, and Jones’ leadership in the middle were key to that victory and both should figure prominently on Wednesday when Klinsmann’s young squad faces an even tougher test against Panama.
Ives Galarcep is a senior writer for FOXSoccer.com covering Major League Soccer and the US National Team.