By Simon Evans
BOCA RATON Florida (Reuters) - Jermaine Jones had a fine World Cup for the United States in Brazil and coach Juergen Klinsmann is hoping a new role will extend the 32-year-old midfielder's career to the 2018 tournament in Russia.
A combative, all-action box-to-box midfielder, German-born Jones might struggle to maintain his effectiveness in that role over the next four years as age inevitably catches up with him.
So for Tuesday's 1-1 friendly draw with Honduras, Klinsmann experimented with Jones at center-back and after a solid display from the New England Revolution player, the coach believes he might have a long-term future in that position.
"We wouldn’t do it if there wasn’t a long-term thought to it, definitely," said Klinsmann. "Defensive midfielders with the way that they play and their vision and their sense for it can easily move one step back and play a center-back role."
There are two examples from Klinsmann's playing career with the German national team that prove the switch can work.
Lothar Matthaus moved from a midfield general role to a sweeper position at the back and played until he was 39 while Matthias Sammer also made the switch from midfield to defense before his career was cut short by injury.
Klinsmann believes there is no reason why Jones couldn't become an international class defender in the twilight of his career.
"Obviously it takes a little bit of time and a little bit of understanding with the other center-back and the full-back, but Jermaine has played there before – he has played it a couple of times at Schalke and played it at Besiktas as well, I was not worried about it all," he said.
Jones said he was hesitant about the change at first but appears ready to embrace the new responsibilities which will harness his ability to play the ball out of the back and, says Klinsmann, will allow his vocal leadership to be more effective.
"He asked me and at first I was a bit 'Erm, ok'. But I have no problem with that, the position is OK and maybe I have some fun in the next few years,” said Jones.
"I think this position is one of the easiest positions on the field, if you have experience and you can read the game a little bit and you are physical – and I have no problem to battle in games."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)