From trying start, Jones becomes major contributor to Schalke's run into Champions League.
By Robert Wagman
| Jermaine Jones started the 2011-12 season in the doghouse, but once he received a chance, he became an important contributor to FC Schalke's advancement to the next European Champions League.
-- FC Schalke web site photo --
(in Washington, D.C.)
(Wednesday, May 2, 2012) -- There probably isn't a player in Europe who has had a stranger season than German-American defensive midfielder Jermaine Jones.
He went from being an outcast in a dispute with FC Schalke management to playing a key role in shoring up his club's defense. On Saturday, he played 85 minutes for Schalke in a decisive 4-0 victory over visiting Hertha Berlin in the German Bundesliga, wrapping up third place and the attendant berth in next season's European Champions League.
"The win ensured we reached our target of playing in the Champions League next season," Jones told the Schalke web site. "And I was delighted when (striker) Jefferson Farfan announced he had signed a new contract after the final whistle. The news was a perfect way to round off a successful day."
German-American defender-midfielder Alfredo Morales has an injured calf and is sidelined for Hertha.
With one match left, Schalke (19-10-4, 61 points) secured third place, four points ahead of Borussia Mönchengladbach (16-8-9).
An unhappy Jones started the season in a very bitter and public feud with Schalke's management. He had been loaned to Blackburn Rovers of the English Premier League for the second half of the 2010-11 season. Blackburn wanted to acquire him, but Schalke asked too high a transfer fee so, against his wishes, Jones returned to Germany.
In the preseason, he was said to be on the auction block, but nothing happened and he was considered such a troublemaker that Schalke coach Huub Stevens went to the club's board and received permission to exclude Jones even from training, despite his rather hefty salary.
Things were patched up in October and Jones started training, finally making his first appearance that month. Now he has played in 17 matches and is credited with firming up Schalke's defense.
Now, "the mood is obviously very good," Jones said. "We set a really special incentive during (Wednesday's) practice match in that the losing team had to buy the winning team a sausage each. Though everyone's relaxed, that doesn't mean we're taking the final game of the season lightly. We're determined to win at Bremen and end the season on a positive note."
Jones is a throwback to the days of the German "hard men" on defense. This season, he has the dubious distinction of being shown yellow cards in 14 of the 17 games in which he has appeared. The count might be even higher if it were not for the fact that Jones was handed an eight-week suspension for stepping on to Borussia Mönchengladbach's Marco Reus' foot in a German Cup match.
Schalke complained that the suspension was way too much in that Jones was only shown a yellow card for the infraction and Reus was able to continue in the match.
Jones latest headlines came recently when he and Schalke star forward Klaas-Jan Huntelaar traded blows at a training session. Schalke manager Horst Heldt said everything was fine immediately afterwards.
Jones' father is an African-American American soldier who was stationed in Germany. As a child, Jones lived in Chicago and Greenwood, Miss. When his parents divorced, he returned to Germany with his mother and grew up near Frankfurt.
At 12, Jones joined the Eintracht Frankfurt academy and spent five years progressing through its reserve system, making the first squad in 2001. He made 46 appearances for the Frankfurt senior team over two years (2001-03), scoring seven goals, primarily a defensive midfielder.
He went to Bayer Leverkusen and back to Frankfurt, and played participated in the German national youth program. In 2006, he suffered a major leg injury that kept him out for eight months. Amid much rancor, he left Frankfurt for Schalke.
It was made clear to Jones that he would not be called into the full German national team and he was being pursued by then-United State men's coach Bob Bradley, who wanted him for the U.S. participation for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. However, a shin injury required unusual surgery and kept him out. He returned to Schalke only to be loaned out to Blackburn.
Jones debuted for the U.S. in late 2010 and has earned 14 caps with 10 starts with one goal and four yellow cards as a defensive midfielder.
Jones has more than just than a future Champions League entry to celebrate. "I'm due to be a father again soon as my wife is nine weeks pregnant," he said. "We were at the gynecologist's before training and everything's fine. We're really looking forward to the arrival of our fifth child."
In other Bundesliga play, U.S. defender Steve Cherundolo went 90 minutes Saturday for Hannover 96 in its 1-0 loss to Bayer Leverkusen.
Hannover (11-10-12, 45) had high hopes before the season, but will now finish no better than seventh place, missing qualifying for Europe's second-tier Europa League next season.
American goalkeeper David Yelldell did not dress for Leverkusen.
German-American defender-midfielder Fabian Johnson played 90 minutes for TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in a 3-2 loss Saturday to 1. FC Nürnberg.
German-American defender-midfielder Danny Williams was ruled out for Hoffenheim's final two matches of the season with a partially torn shoulder muscle, an injury incurred while weight-lifting. He will be out four-to-six weeks, calling into question his availability for the U.S.'s opening World Cup qualifiers in early June.
American striker Joe Gyau did not dress for Hoffenheim.
U.S. defender Timmy Chandler was shown a yellow card during a 90 for Nürnberg. He recently signed a new, two-year contract extension that will keep him with the club through 2015.
German-American forward Andrew Wooten played 90 minutes for relegated 1. FC Kaiserslautern in its 5-2 loss Saturday to Borussia Dortmund.
Wooten also signed a new two-year extension, running through the 2015 season.
German-American striker Terrence Boyd did not dress for Dortmund.
No Americans played in the second-division 2. Bundesliga last weekend.
Forward Matt Taylor dressed, but did not play for SC Paderborn 07 in its 1-0 decision over FSV Frankfurt on Sunday. Keeper Luis Robles did not dress for Karlsruhe and striker Bobby Wood did not dress for 1860 Munich
In Italy, Michael Bradley went the distance for Chievo Verona in a 0-0 draw with Cagliari.
In the Netherlands, U.S. striker Jozy Altidore had his scoring run came to an end. He played 85 minutes for AZ Alkmaar in a 1-0 loss to Feyenoord.
In Portugal, U.S. central defender Oguchi Onyewu went 90 minutes for Sporting Lisbon, which defeated Academica de Coimbra 2-1 Monday night on an 77th-minute goal by Ricky van Wolfswinke.
In France, American forward Charlie Davies again did not dress for Sochaux in a 3-0 loss Sunday to Bordeaux.
In Belgium, U.S. midfielder Sacha Kljestan sat out a yellow-card suspension for RSC Anderlecht, a 4-0 winner over Genk on Friday.
American midfielder Mix Diskerud did not dress for Gent in its 2-1 decision over Club Brugge.
In Norway, American keeper Steve Clark played 90 minutes for Honefoss BK in a 0-0 draw with Tromsø
American defender Sean Cunningham played 90 minutes Saturday for Stabæk
IF in its 2-0 loss to Odd Grenland.
U.S. midfielder Ricardo Clark was ineligible for Stabæk, serving a yellow-card suspension.
American defender Josh Gatt dressed, but did not play for Molde FK in its 2-1 loss to Sogndal.
In Denmark, American defender Clarence Goodson played 90 minutes for Brøndby IF in a 3-3 draw with SønderjyskE.
American midfielder Conor O'Brien went the distance for SønderjyskE.
American defender Michael Parkhurst played 90 minutes for FC Nordsjælland in a 5-3 triumph over AGF Aarhus.
American defender Brad Rusin played the final 30 minutes for HB Køge in a 2-1 victory over Horsens.
In Mexico, U.S. midfielder DaMarcus Beasley went 90 minutes and assisted on goals in the 83rd and 87th minutes for Puebla in its come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Tigres.
U.S. defender Jonathan Bornstein did not dress for Tigres.
American defender Edgar Castillo went the distance, while midfielder Joe Corona and defender Greg Garza each played the first half for Club Tijuana in a 1-1 draw with Pumas.
American defender-midfielder Michael Orozco Fiscal played 90 minutes for San Luis, a 2-1 loser to Toluca.
Midfielder José Torres played 90 minutes for Pachuca in its 3-1 win over Chivas de Guadalajara.
American striker Herculez Gomez dressed, but did not play for Santos Laguna in a 3-1 triumph over Atlas.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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