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The 30-year-old midfielder, suspended by his club team, Schalke 04, for eight weeks, arrived in U.S. national team camp a week ago. He provided the game-winning assist in Saturday night's 1-0 win over Venezuela in a friendly at University of Phoenix Stadium, while wearing the captain's armband for the Yanks.
Jones was a huge difference-maker for the U.S. in the second half Saturday, his experience and fitness level showing through as he spearheaded the U.S. attack. And when it mattered most, Jones was the man taking the corner kick that found teammates Ricardo Clark's head for the winning goal in the eighth minute of second-half stoppage time.
Jones, one of the most-capped players on the U.S. team currently playing, could have eased into camp when he arrived from Germany; instead he practiced right away and is making the best of a difficult situation.
"(It's) his energy, his leadership with his vision on the field that makes such a big difference," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "Jermaine jumped in and talked with the guys and that's why it was an easy decision to make him the captain."
Jones had a great scoring chance early in the second half and was a difficult matchup for the Venezuelans after that, when the Americans kept up relentless offensive pressure on their opponents.
"It was a win-win for everyone. His leadership was awesome to see," Klinsmann said.
Jones said he was happy to be called in by Klinsmann, and is fine with being an older, more experienced player among a team of younger players. It's the same situation he has in Germany, where he was born to an American father and German mother.
"You can see today that everybody was running for the other guys," Jones said. "I was lucky and happy that I could be the captain."
GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 21: Jermaine Jones #8 of USA battles for the ball with Jose Velasquez #4 of Venezuela during the first half of the friendly match at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 21, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. USA defeated Venezuela 1-0. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Jurgen Klinsmann is about six months into his tenure as coach of the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team. His record is now 3-4-1 after Saturday's win over Venezuela in a friendly that featured many of the program's younger players but was lead beautifully by veterans Jermaine Jones and Ricardo Clark. Jones dominated the middle of the field the entire game and Clark, a second half substitute, helped advance the attack and scored the dramatic game-winner in the seventh minute of stoppage time.
The entire match was a study in Klinsmann's moves paying off perfectly starting with his ability to negotiate the return of Jones and Clark from their respective Bundesliga clubs and secure their participation in the January training camp.
"I knew that once he was on the field that he's a play that is technically very gifted and he can play one-touch football," Klinsmann said of Clark.
"That means, we needed to find a way in the second half to move the ball faster, to get faster into their final third, to be a little bit more pushy, to be more getting the ball in the box and be more aggressive. You kind of have to force them to go. We told them at half time to be patient but you have to push it harder. He gives you more speed with his distribution that helps."
It wasn't just the roster moves that worked. Klinsmann pulled the right levers during the game resulting in multiple scoring chances late and culminating in a well-deserved victory.
Klinsmann understood that his team was in complete control of the match despite the 0-0 score and aggressively went for the win by bringing aggressive forward Chris Wondolowski in place of midfielder Benny Fiehaber at the same time Clark came in for midfielder Jeff Larentowicz in the 63rd minute.
"I just wanted to provide some energy coming on to the field and help the team out. That's an ideal way to make an impression. I just hope there's more to come and more to come for the national team," Clark said.
Those moves switched the U.S. formation from a 4-3-2-1 with Fielhaber playing the distributor role so crucial to that formation to a more attack-oriented 4-4-2 which put the dangerous Wondolowski forward into the box. Adding Clark to the midfield at the same time increased the tempo and frequency of the chances which came fast and furious in the final 20 minutes of play.
"We needed to push it further and further up into their box to force this goal," Klinsmann said. "It's good to see that they can play and switch the system right away, that they understand it, what is meant with it. It's just about getting this one goal sooner or later. A bit late, but not too late."
It wasn't that Fielhaber played poorly. He played a beautiful ball through to Brek Shea in the first half that easily could have resulted in a goal, but it was a different role for Benny and one not perfectly suited to his game. The slender Fielhaber admitted that he's not at his best with his back to the goal holding off defenders and making plays.
If forward Juan Agudelo (ankle sprain) had been available, Klinsmann said he would have started and played the 4-4-2 for the entire game. His injury, however, provided a great learning opportunity for the young American group and showed their ability to play multiple formations and adjust on the fly.
Gaolkeeper Bill Hamid made his first international appearance and admitted to having butterflies in the early minutes of the game. It turns out he was barely tested and had no regrets about that.
"No chance," Hamid said, "I'm happy the guys, every single player in front of me played extremely well. Defensively, we were sticking the tackles, cutting out lanes and doing what we needed to do to prevent them from getting chances and it showed. They got no chances on goal. They had one or two crosses, we dealt with them. The only slim thing I needed to do was come out and punch one early in the first half. Other than that, it was all from my feet and that was all I needed to do."
Brek Shea said he had an up and down game. The ball didn't seem to find him very often and his fitness level was not where he wanted it to be thanks in part to a head cold. Here's audio of Brek after the game: Brek Shea postgame audio
The U.S. soccer team put on a strong showing against Venezuela on Saturday night at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The Americans dominated the run of play for the entire match and had numerous scoring chances that they were unable to convert until the 97th minute. Ricardo Clark was finally able to beat the Venezuelan keeper Jose Morales off a Jermaine Jones corner kick to give the USMNT the 1-0 win.
The star of the game was veteran midfielder Jermaine Jones who controlled the center of the field and initiated the attack on multiple occasions. Jones' fitness allowed him to be all over the field helping from penalty box to penalty box.
The U.S. led 19-6 in shots and 7-0 in corner kick attempts. If it weren't for several brilliant saves from Morales, the final margin would have been at least 3-0. Venezuela never really threatened young American keeper Bill Hamid.
The victory marks the first win for the United States over a South American team since 2007. Team USA now travels to Panama for a second friendly of this training camp session. That game will be on January 25th.
Here's a recap of the several U.S. second half chances that came up short prior to Clark's stunning late goal.
Stay tuned for postgame quotes from the coach and players in the coming hour.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The U.S men's national team had its moments in the first half of Saturday night's friendly with Venezuela at University of Phoenix Stadium, but couldn't put one in the net through the first 45 minutes.
The Americans outshot Venezuela 4-3, and those four shots were quality chances. Two came from midfielder Brek Shea, who was among those players who stood out for the U.S. in the first half.
Midfielder Graham Zusi and defender A.J. DeLaGarza also played well in their national-team debuts. The Americans controlled the pace of the game from the outset and young goalkeeper Bill Hamid wasn't tested much.
In the 19th minute, Teal Bunbury bended a left-footed shot on target but over the crossbar. About a minute later,Benny Feilhaber fed Shea running down the left side, and Shea's low shot went just wide far post.
Shea's 23rd-minute header was miraculously saved by Venezuela keeper Jose Morales.
DeLaGarza was active in the back and also played the ball forward on the attack as the right back. The crowd at the match filled most of the lower bowl of the stadium.
U.S. Men's National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has announce his starting lineup for the United State's international friendly against Venezuela. The U.S. side will be without all their big names who are with their European club teams leaving a 16-man roster primarily comprised of MLS players.
The starting lineup for the United States will be:
Venezuela will start Jose Morales (GK), Carlos Rivero (D), Carlos Salazar (D), Jose Velasquez (D), Miguel Mea Vitali (M), Angel Flores (M), Adgar Peres Greco (M), Francisco Flores (M), Alejandro Moreno (F), Alejandro Guerra (M), Andres Rouga (D).
Six subs will be allowed in this friendly.
The game starts at 7:00 p.m. AZT / 9:00 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on ESPN 3 and Galavision.
The U.S. Men's National Soccer Team will take the field at University of Phoenix Stadium on Saturday night against Venezuela in an international friendly that caps off a three week camp session. The team will follow this game in Glendale, Arizona with a trip to Panama on the 25th.
Saturday night's game kicks off at 7:00 p.m. and will stream live online at ESPN 3 and can be found on TV on Galavision. As of Friday afternoon, 17,000 tickets had been sold for the event.
Transition to Klinsmann
The U.S. team is in the middle of a transition to a more international style of play being implemented by new coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
The famous German striker and former coach of his homeland's national team took over the U.S. side about six months ago. According to Klinsmann, his focus has been on raising the fitness level of the Americans along with implementing a more ball possession style of play that he feels will (finally) allow U.S. teams to play "face to face and eye to eye" with top international competition.
That transition won't happen overnight and as with any change, the process will be rocky as reflected in the team's 2-4-1 record since Klinsmann took over for Bob Bradley in late July 2011.
"It is just part of elevating the level of the players because the base of everything you do is how fast you can do it and how fast you can recover," Klinsmann said about his focus on fitness. "If you want to pick up the speed of play on a highly international level than you have to build a foundation for it so everything we do we do it with a lot of speed, with high intensity."
Midfielder Benny Feilhaber describe the process on Friday, "Obviously, it's a work in progress. Jurgen (Klinesmann) knows that the U.S. as a whole has been playing a different style of soccer for a long time now so changing that system takes a little bit of work."
Opportunity for MLS players
This January training camp is held in the middle of the season for the big European leagues so the USMNT will be without their big-name players. No Tim Howard in goal. No Clint Dempsey scoring from the midfield. No team team captain Carlos Bocanegra at center back.
The absence of the core of the team, however, does create opportunities for the mostly MLS players who want to be the next generation of American starters.
"I think it's an opportunity for every single person in this camp. You're being called up to the national team for a reason. It's not a hand out," Feilhaber said.
"Now, if you want to take the next step and be on that team that's going to compete in the (World Cup) qualifiers, that's going to compete in the World Cup, Gold Cup, whatever else comes forward you've got to show well in the camps that you're brought in to. It's just taking it one step at a time but everybody's got something to prove."
Players to watch for on Saturday night include:
--Jermaine Jones, the talented midfielder currently on suspension from his German club team. Jones, 30, is the son of a U.S. serviceman and a German mother was mostly raised in his mother's country and has played his professional ball there. According to Klinsmann, his arrival in camp raised the overall level of play due to his experience and quality.
-- Geoff Cameron, 26, is a big and physical center back who plays his club ball in Houston. Cameron impressed Klinsmann in camp and showed that he's ready to compete with established veterans (Carlos Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu) for a spot on the main roster.
-- Brek Shea, 21, is one of the rising stars in U.S. soccer. He plays club ball for his hometown FC Dallas team and in just a few brief appearances with the USMNT has shown his potential as an attacking wing midfielder.
Two of the team's more experienced players in this camp have been ruled out against Venezuela and Panama due to injury. Juan Agudelo, sprained his right ankle in camp and Kyle Beckerman came to camp with a groin issue that he's not been able to shake.
Those injuries just create more opportunities for Klinsmann to test and evaluate his younger players against a good Venezuelan team that recently beat Argentina and is third in South America.
GLENDALE -- Arizona is sort of Martin Vasquez's second home, and the longtime coach is here this weekend as U.S. national soccer team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann's right-hand man for a friendly against Venezuela Saturday night at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Vasquez, Mexican by birth but an American citizen for more than two decades, fashioned a long professional soccer career for himself in both the Mexican First Division and in the U.S. in Major League Soccer. He played for both the Mexican and U.S. senior national teams before moving into coaching. Now he's not only a top official at Casa Grande's Grande Sports World soccer facility, directing the site's development academy for MLS club Real Salt Lake, but he is Klinsmann's first assistant coach.
Vasquez was at the stadium Friday night for a U.S. practice session.
"Right now I'm all over the place. I can call home here, I can call home there (California)," Vasquez said. "Or whenever we travel to play our games than we're on the road."
(photo courtesy of Getty Images)
Vasquez's job at the RSL academy is to develop players for the club, one of the most successful in MLS. If not for RSL, he prepares young players for college soccer. He's got a ton of experience and has been an MLS head coach for Chivas USA.
"I've been blessed with getting opportunities and I have made the most of them," he said.
Vasquez will be at the academy later this month and next when Real Salt Lake arrives for preseason training. He wants the academy teams to follow the same philosophy as the senior team, and sees it as his job to make sure that happens.
If Arizona could attach itself to an MLS club, chances are it would be Real Salt Lake. The Utah club has an academy in the state, trains there and in the Phoenix area in the preseason and has players on the U.S. national team who are in town for Saturday's game. One is goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
"We've made this our home, I guess, for the preseason," Rimando said. "We train with multiple academy players and we've signed a couple as well. They have a chance to train with us and see if they're able to compete and play on the same field."
Those who can hang with the big-leaguers get a chance to come north to Utah to keep training with the team.
"We've got a little pipeline down here. It's a good avenue for kids to come through our system," Rimando said.
Major League Soccer veteran getting in some early training with national team in advance of 2012 season
The U.S. National team returns to University of Phoenix Stadium for the first time in five years with a match against Venezuela on Jan. 21, 2012.
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