Jermaine Jones has told ESPN that Tim Howard’s comments about national team players born or brought up overseas were “dangerous stuff” and that playing for USA wasn’t about being “half-American or full-American”.
Jones, who was born in Germany and has 67 caps for USA, spent half a season alongside Howard at the Colorado Rapids before signing for the LA Galaxy on Wednesday. He said the subject of commitment and identity was a tricky one “where you have to be careful what you’re saying.”
The 35-year-old midfielder said: “With all the respect for Timmy, I feel it’s not if you’re half American or full-American. It’s more what you have in here [taps his chest].
“If you go on the field and you give everything for this country, then of course sometimes there’s a situation where you’re not playing good. But it’s normal. That can happen to anybody, and that’s what you have to understand.”
In an interview with USA Today, Howard appeared to question the commitment of some of the overseas players brought in by former coach Jürgen Klinsmann, and said that simply having American heritage “doesn’t mean you are passionate about playing for that country. While it was a good idea in theory, it had its flaws.”
Howard later backtracked and said he wasn’t referring specifically to foreign-born players. “It’s not exclusive to them because some of our dual nationals have been brilliant,” he said. “Jermaine Jones has been a rock for our national team. He’s been one of the heartbeats. Fabian Johnson has been brilliant for us. So, no, that wasn’t aimed at any one person in particular.”
Klinsmann had called up a number of players who were born or brought up outside the US, including Jones, Fabian Johnson, John Brooks and Julian Green. Klinsmann was fired in November after a two losses in his first two games of World Cup qualifying, a 2-1 home defeat by Mexico and a 4-0 thumping in Costa Rica.
World Cup winner Abby Wambach is another high-profile soccer star to question the commitment of “foreign guys” – and Jones said he and others who grew up abroad were always the first target when things go wrong.
“Where everything goes wrong and we lost the first two games, we say maybe the German-Americans are the problem. But when we played the World Cup, I scored. [John] Brooks scored, and it’s: ‘Oh, the German-Americans are American boys.’
“We played two bad games [in qualifying], yes. That’s a fact. All the criticism that comes from outside, that’s good. That’s soccer. It has to be like that.
“But you have to see the bigger picture, and that’s the whole team. There’s not an American guy and a German-American. The whole team played bad, so that’s the fact. To put it on this guy or this guy, I think it’s not correct.”