Nerves were of little concern to Jermaine Jones when he stepped onto the pitch in at BMO Field to make his Revolution debut.
The 32-year-old designated player, who was acquired by the club via league draw last Sunday, entered in the 65th minute of Saturday’s 3-0 win over Toronto and, like a seasoned pro, took it all in stride.
“I was happy to be back on the pitch, and it’s always nice to play in stadiums like here,” Jones told the media after the match. “It’s a nice stadium in Toronto, and I try to take everything (in). I was happy to get some minutes on the pitch; it’s always good when you get minutes in.”
Jones’s status for Saturday’s contest appeared to be in the air during his introductory press conference on Tuesday. While he expressed his desire to play as soon as possible, the fact that the veteran midfielder hadn’t played since the United States’ Round of 16 contest against Belgium on July 1 suggested he might need a couple of weeks to regain his match fitness.
In the days leading up to Saturday’s clash, Jones said that he and coach Jay Heaps discussed a “step-by-step” plan that would allow him to return to game action and help the Revolution in its playoff push.
That plan, however, didn’t appear particularly conservative even before the first whistle. With only a handful of training sessions under his belt, Jones not only made the game-day roster, but he was tapped as the team’s first substitute when Daigo Kobayashi exited the game just after the hour.
“Jermaine has been excellent around his team, and around our group,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps told the media after the match, “and we wanted to get him in there and kind of build it in with the training sessions.”
While putting his prized midfielder into the match appeared to be a given after the Revolution racked up a trio of goals by the 58th minute, Heaps admitted that Jones’ cameo didn’t go exactly as planned.
“For us, it’s about fitness,” Heaps said about Jones’ ability to contribute. “Unfortunately, when he went into the game, we were trying to keep it a little bit more, and didn’t, so he got a little extra fitness in.”
Aside from the extra work Jones put in with Toronto tipping the possession scale in their favor, Saturday’s debut couldn’t have gone smoother. Not only did his new club claim a convincing win over a conference opponent, but Jones appeared to genuinely enjoy himself even before he entered the match.
“I was happy on the bench with the boys,” Jones said. “They played a good game, it was 3-0 (for us), so it was easy to come in, and I was happy that I came back on the pitch.”
And with good reason. Nearly two full months had passed since his last action, and with plenty of expectations placed on his shoulders, the U.S. international spoke about his eagerness to aid the club’s cause down the stretch.
“It was a long break for me and I can feel it, yeah,” Jones admitted. “I need (more) time on the pitch, of course. But step-by-step, today was 25 minutes, and maybe next game, (it’ll be) a little bit longer. I will try my best to be fast (in getting to) 100 percent.”