SAO PAULO – The most controversial part of Jurgen Klinsmann's reign as United States soccer head coach, apart from, you know, that little thing with Landon Donovan, has centered around whether America's team … is American enough.
Ever since taking over from Bob Bradley in 2011, Klinsmann has worked hard to utilize everything at his disposal, including incorporating a heavy presence of German players eligible to compete for the U.S. due to their parental lineage.
Such a policy is bound to ruffle a few feathers and potentially open up Klinsmann to criticism, however, there is no doubt that the five German-raised players on the roster have made a strong effort to assimilate themselves with their teammates.
One of them, Jermaine Jones, has taken it a step further than most.
Jones has vast swathes of his upper torso and arms covered in tattoos, and as a lover of body art, decided recently to celebrate his "American-ness" in permanent print.
The 32-year-old midfielder, who played last season with Besiktas in Turkey, went to a tattoo parlor with a number of his club colleagues a few months back and decided to get a large U.S.-themed tattoo that covers his left kneecap.
"I got it when I was back in Turkey," Jones told Yahoo Sports. "I was with my teammates, we were hanging around and we decided to get some tattoos.
"This idea came up and I said, ‘I am American, so that is what I will do.' The [tattoo parlor] had the star and then I saw a flag among their designs. So that is what I got: a big star with the U.S. flag inside it.
"I am proud to be half-half, proud to be half-American and half-German and to play proudly for the U.S. national team."
The tattoo, visible beneath the hem of Jones' shorts when he dons the national team uniform, has further endeared him to the team's fans, who already appreciated his tough-tackling, no-nonsense approach. Shoring up the midfield will be critical over the next few weeks and Jones' midfield partner, Michael Bradley, is also grateful for Jones' commitment to the cause.
"[Jermaine] puts himself on the line and he is committed and it means something special to him to be playing for this team," Bradley said. "He and all the other German-based guys have come in and given their all and shown it is important to them to be part of this."
Jones seems assured of a place in the starting lineup against Ghana in Natal, Brazil, on June 16, although the exact formation is still up in the air. It is possible that Kyle Beckerman could be used in midfield to shield the backline, with Jones and Bradley playing just in front of him.
Klinsmann has repeatedly praised the contribution of Jones, who has spent most of his career in the German Bundesliga and had come close to establishing himself on that country's national team before switching allegiance to the U.S. in 2009.
At least his tattoo caper went more successfully than that of fellow German-American John Brooks. Brooks missed a game for his club team, Hertha Berlin, last season when he had a large tattoo inked onto his back and the resulting pain and inflammation kept him out of action for a week.
That folly aside, Klinsmann's German crew has received generally positive reviews and certainly adds a level of depth to the squad that would have been impossible without them.
Jones is the most senior, and arguably the most accomplished of the group. Having had an American flag imprinted on him, he wants to make his own mark on the grandest stage in soccer.
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- Jermaine Jones
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