Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley still key for U.S. - Bruce Arena
NEW YORK -- The central midfield tandem of Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones looks set to continue under new United States coach Bruce Arena.
In a meeting with national reporters in Manhattan on Tuesday, Arena, who replaced Jurgen Klinsmann as U.S. coach last week, said that the 35-year-old Jones still has a future with the Yanks.
Arena, who also coached the U.S. national team from 1998-2002, was in attendance at DSG Park in suburban Denver on Sunday, where Jones' Colorado Rapids lost to the Seattle Sounders in the MLS Western Conference final. The German-born midfielder played 90 minutes in the match, but he's now out of contract with his next destination still to be determined.
The former Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen player is looking for a big-money deal to stay in MLS, and he said after Sunday's game that he was open to returning to Europe or even moving to Mexico's Liga MX.
But Arena wants him to continue to play for his country if he can find another club.
"Hopefully he resolves his issues contractually and he's going to be with a club next year -- he's certainly still has something to offer the U.S." Arena said. "Depending on where he ends up, I will likely have him in camp in January.
"He's got to play. He'll have to have a contract at some point. I think that's important. You always look at age, but I watched him the other day. He still has a big tank."
Still, Jones will not be available for Arena's a first competitive game, a World Cup qualifier against Honduras on March 24 as he is suspended because of yellow card accumulation.
When healthy, Bradley and Jones have been U.S. midfield locks since 2010, but they haven't always clicked. Klinsmann and previous coach Bob Bradley tried deploying both in different roles, with one or the other taking on a more advanced position, lining up slightly wide, or operating in a "pulley" system, where one player drops deep when the other goes forward.
On Monday, Arena made it clear he sees Bradley in a more dedicated defensive role within his squad.
"I think he'd be viewed as a No. 6," Arena said of the U.S. captain, adding he's been in contact with Bradley and other senior players since being hired on Nov. 23.
"He plays an important position and at his best, he's a key figure. And we have to get him at his best. Hopefully he's at his best in March."
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.