The malicious stamp that United States international midfielder Jermaine Jones aimed at a German Bundesliga opponent should cost him more than the eight-game ban handed out by the soccer authorities.
It could, and should, affect his international career.
Jones, who has lived most of his life in Germany and plays his club soccer for Schalke, was brought into the USA national team fold by former coach Bob Bradley in 2010 and has represented the side 14 times.
However, given the nature of the incident that led to Jones' ban, USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann needs to think long and hard about whether the 30-year-old is the type of character he wants on his squad.
For those who have not seen footage (watch here), Jones was punished for his actions in Schalke's 3-1 German Cup defeat to Borussia Moenchengladbach on Dec. 21. During a break in play for an infraction, and with the referee distracted, Jones rushed over to where Moenchengladbach's Marco Reus was standing, carefully and deliberately placed his foot on top of Reus', before pressing downwards with all his weight.
What makes the incident particularly unsavory is that Reus was playing with a specially-created protective cleat, having sustained a broken small toe in a previous game, which both Jones and his Schalke teammates were aware of.
While neither the referee nor the assistants spotted the move, television footage showed it clearly and Germany's disciplinary panel took swift and strong measures to mete out punishment.
The reason why this should affect Jones has little to do with personal character. The best soccer players are not necessarily the most squeaky-clean characters, either on or off the field, indeed, quite often the complete opposite.
What should be of most concern to Klinsmann as he tries to build a brave new era for the USA is that Jones clearly poses a risk of getting involved, totally unnecessarily, in incidents that could negatively impact his team.
If the referee in the German game, or one of his assistants, had had sharper eyes then it would have led to an immediate sending off and put Jones' side at a one-man disadvantage for the remainder of the game.
The resulting eight-game suspension is serious enough for Schalke, currently sitting in third in the Bundesliga table just three points behind leader Bayern Munich, as Jones will now miss nearly a quarter of the season.
Yet, at a major tournament like the 2014 World Cup, where Jones hopes to be part of the USA roster, a suspension for two or three games would be even more significant and have a huge impact on the team's chances.
Klinsmann, like most coaches, likes players with a bit of edge, and Jones is not the sort of player to be pushed around on the field. The question must be asked though, whether the potential danger of his short-temper can be outweighed by his positive contributions in midfield.
[ Related: Jones declared 'nastiest player in Germany' ]
He has been tagged as the "nastiest player in German football" by respected n-tv television pundit Stefan Giannakoulis, while Frankfurter Allgemeine writer Peter Koerte wrote that Jones "doesn't even belong in the Bundesliga."
The USA is well-stacked in central midfield, by far its deepest position, and in any case, Jones will be 32 by the time Brazil rolls around. He has been sent off four times in his career and a school of thought pervades in Germany that his reputation is starting to come before him and lead to extra attention from referees.
If that spreads to international duty, this could be the perfect time for Klinsmann to start looking elsewhere.
- Jermaine Jones
- Jurgen Klinsmann