Cobi Jones: Major League Legend

Cobi Jones: Major League Legend

Date of Birth: 16/06/1970                                    

Height: 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in)

Position: Midfielder

National Team: United States Men’s National Team

International Caps: 164

International Goals: 15

Club Career

Opportunities for Americans to play professional soccer in their home country in the early 1990s were non-existent. While the non-professional American collegiate system was still in action, there was no major professional league in the country at the time.

For most Americans post-college careers, their only opportunity to play soccer occurred with the national team. International matches provided them with the chance to impress scouts from clubs in Europe or South America and hopefully score a professional contract.

This is precisely how the career of Cobi Jones got started. After finishing a college career at powerhouse school UCLA in 1991, Jones was forced to train with the national team and hope that he would get noticed at a tournament.

After impressing at the 1994 World Cup in the United States, he was signed by English club Coventry City. Jones English Premier League career got off to a flying start when he assisted a goal and won a penalty for Coventry as they beat Leeds 2-1. Jones was the hero that day, and things looked to be on the up.

However, his bright start to life in England was cut short when Coventry, struggling in the league, abruptly changed coaches. The new coach didn’t feel obliged to give him minutes, and his game time dried up. Jones still played in 24 matches for Coventry, scoring twice, before leaving in the club in the offseason.

The 1995-96 season took Jones to Brazil when he signed a contract with the first-division side Vasco de Gama. Jones had just put on a show at the 1995 Copa America tournament with the U.S. Men’s National Team, and the Brazilian side were keen to snap him up. But it was not a match made in heaven.

Jones played in just 4 matches with Vasco, scoring once. Halfway through the season he answered the call of home and returned to the States. A new league, Major League Soccer, was forming and it needed its homegrown stars to be playing at home in order to survive.

Take a moment to reflect on this decision, and not just about Cobi Jones. Many American footballers returned home to help start this new fledgling league. Many of them gave up careers abroad that they would never get back. It was an incredible sacrifice for the good of the American game.

Jones was ambitious about the move and the new league. In an interview in 1996, he said, “I would say within five years it will be comparable to other leagues around the world.” It was that kind of magnetic leadership combined with his colorful playing style that quickly made him a star in the new league. 

It also helped that the LA Galaxy were good. Jones led the Galaxy to the very first MLS Cup, which they lost to DC United. He was a star in this new American league, but his best season came in 1998 when he scored 19 goals and 13 assists. He was named in the MLS Best XI for his efforts. The Galaxy lifted the 1998 Supporters Shield as the team who finished the regular season with the most points.

Jones had to wait just two more years to lift his first bit of major silverware though when the Galaxy lifted the CONCACAF Champions Cup in 2000.

In 2001, Jones became the 3rd player in MLS history to record 50 assists. He also scored the Galaxy’s 300th all-time regular-season goal. 

Jones’s first league title came in 2002 when the Galaxy dominated MLS. They won the Supporters Shield and managed a difficult MLS Cup playoff run to the Final. Jones recorded a team-high 13 assists in 2002, despite playing in just 19 games. He was on fire during the Galaxy’s playoff run, notching 3 goals and four assists in just 6 playoff games.

Jones and the Galaxy lifted the league title again in 2005, and he had something of a career renaissance that season. It was remarkable considering he had missed considerable amounts of time through injury the season prior.

But Jones turned back the clock in 2005, playing in all but one of the Galaxy’s regular-season games, scoring 3 times and assisting a further 6.

Cobi Jones’s final season came in 2007 when he played 25 times for the Galaxy and scored 4 times. He retired having played 306 times for the Galaxy, scoring 70 goals. His number 13 was retired by the club as an honor to his service.

In total, Cobi Jones won the CONCACAF Champions League, MLS Cup twice, the Supporters Shield twice, and the U.S. Open Cup twice. He was the Galaxy’s first major star. Jones retired as one of the great servants of MLS, and few players embodied the early days of Major League Soccer more than Cobi Jones.

International Career

Cobi Jones’s international career began in 1992 when he earned his first cap in a 2-0 win of northern neighbor Canada. It was just the start for Jones, who would go on to appear in more games for the United States than any other man in history.

He played in an incredibly diverse range of international tournaments. Jones appeared for the United States in an Olympic Games, CONCACAF Gold Cup, Copa America, and World Cup. Jones played in the 1994, 1998, and 2002 World Cups, and played every minute of his team’s ’94 and ’98 campaigns.

Jones appeared in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics as he was still eligible for the U-23 tournament.

The midfielder created a stir during the 1995 Copa America tournament in Uruguay for his dynamic play and trademark bleached dreadlocks. However, it was when representing his country in its own regional competition that Cobi Jones really shined. For his performances at the 2000 Gold Cup, Jones was named in the tournament’s Best XI team. Despite his leadership and stellar play, the U.S. was knocked out on penalties in the quarterfinals by Colombia.

The following Gold Cup, in 2002, was his turn to lift the trophy. Led by Jones, tournament MVP Brian McBride, and company, the United States lifted the trophy as winners following a 2-0 win over Costa Rica in the final.

Jones would make just 5 more appearances for the national team after the 2002 Gold Cup before retiring from international duty in 2004. 

When he retired, he was alone at the top of American soccer history with 164 caps. He scored 15 goals and added 22 assists and was elected into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2011.

Where is Cobi Jones Now?

Cobi Jones has held a few roles in the American soccer landscape since his retirement. Following his retirement, Jones joined the LA Galaxy coaching staff as an assistant coach to manager Ruud Gullit. He stayed in this role with new coach Bruce Arena until January 2010, when he left to spend a year as associate director of soccer with the New York Cosmos.

Presently, Cobi Jones works as the Director of Football with City of Angels FC in Los Angeles. He also appears as an analyst on LA Galaxy broadcasts, as well as for Fox Sports, BeIN Sports, and the Pac-12 Network.

Did You Know? Interesting facts About Cobi Jones

– He scored the first goal in LA Galaxy history.

– Jones played soccer at UCLA with fellow U.S. National Team members Brad Friedel, Joe-Max Moore, and Chris Henderson. The team was coached by future Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid.