The USMNT won a thriller, and a hotly-contested thriller, against Ecuador. After their horrible start to the group stages, few would have seen the US going far but thanks to a penalty call against Costa Rica, the confidence of the red, white and blue was turned completely on its head. They went on to not give up another goal within the group stages, winning the group of death and going on to face Ecuador, who, as mentioned, they just put away, 2-1.
The match got testy. After a rather blatant kick of his US team mate Alejandro Bedoya, Jermaine Jones stepped in to defend his countryman and, to the bewilderment of all, was shown a red card to match that of the kicker, Antonio Valencia.
It was shocking. Not just for the fact that it was completely out of the blue, but because it meant that the US would be without the ever-crucial Jones for what will probably turn out to be a semi-final match against Lionel Messi’s Argentina. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann called the straight red a “joke” and a “disgrace” but it’s all said and done. Jones will have to sit by and watch, hoping that whoever replaces him can do the job he does.
As an eternal optimist, I will save my optimism for after a brief bout of pessimism. I am fearful of what will become of the USMNT without Jones. Jones picked up the slack of Michael Bradley in the group stages and he was the driving force behind the win over Ecuador – at least until he was tossed.
I have to believe that Klinsmann shifted to the 4-4-2 instead of the 4-3-3 in order to give Jones a more central role next to Bradley, as opposed to giving Bradley the sole central role and shoehorning Jones out wide.
The USMNT progressed because they gave Jones more responsibility and he rose up to grasp it with both hands. His effort against Costa Rica was sublime and his control against Paraguay was dominant. Both of those carried over against Ecuador and it will be a shame to see the US forced to adapt for life without him.
The most crucial thing is that they do not revert back to a 4-3-3. Do not give so much central midfield responsibility to Bradley. He has improved since being put side by side with Jones, to switch now would be to revert back to the way he was against Colombia and I don’t think any of us want to see that again.
The best option is clearly Darlington Nagbe, although I worry that Klinsmann will go with experience in Kyle Beckerman. Against Argentina, athleticism is crucial and Nagbe has that in abundance. We will see what happens.