With Alejandro Bedoya suspended, Union's Derrick Jones may play for first time since July
After a fast rise to prominence early this year, Derrick Jones has been out of the spotlight for two months now. That could change Saturday at Minnesota.
After a fast rise to prominence early this year, Derrick Jones has been out of the spotlight for two months now. But that could change if Union manager Jim Curtin decides to have Jones step in for the suspended Alejandro Bedoya in Saturday's game at Minnesota United.
Curtin said Wednesday that he'll pick either Jones or Warren Creavalle to replace Bedoya in midfield. As is custom, his decision won't be known until the starting lineup is announced an hour before kickoff. But there will be plenty of outside observers hoping Jones gets the call, and for good reason.
Jones enjoyed a terrific start to the year, playing in eight of the Union's first nine games. The first of those appearances was his debut with the senior team, and he held down the fort admirably as the Union secured a scoreless tie at the Vancouver Whitecaps.
In May, Jones played a key role for the United States team at the under-20 World Cup, as it advanced to the quarterfinals.
But he hasn't played for the Union since mid-July.
Curtin said Jones hit a bit of a wall as he adjusted to the rigors of life as a pro.
"As you get past the midway point of the year, with all young players, there's always a tendency to have a step back, [amid] the grind and the length of training, and doing it each and every day," Curtin said. "Recognizing what it takes to be a true professional is something that he's still learning, and something that he's worked towards."
Another big factor is a concussion Jones suffered during the July 15 friendly against Swansea City. He said this week was his third concussion in as many years.
"I don't really think about it," Jones said. "It's not going to stop me from playing how I used to play, going hard into every tackle."
Curtin does think about it, and thinks about it plenty.
"It's something that you have to look closely at," Curtin said. "We have to be smart about how we bring him back from that, and then how we manage him."
Jones started playing again on July 29 at Bethlehem. He has made five appearances for Steel since returning to the field.
Two of those appearances have come alongside Maurice Edu, as the veteran works to return to health after two years of injuries. That has been a great learning opportunity.
"It's been very cool," Jones said. "He teaches me a lot of stuff on the field, and I listen to him."
Although Jones' form has waned at times, his potential has not. Because of that, Curtin holds him to a high standard. Curtin spoke earlier this month of wanting to see more, especially in practice. In the time since then, Curtin said, Jones has responded.
"We've seen in training a little more bite, a little more of that intensity that we all saw — the fans saw, the organization saw — in the early stages of the year," Curtin said.
8 p.m. Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis
TV/online streaming: TCN, MLSSoccer.com (paid subscription)
Union's record: 8-12-7, 31 points; 9th in the East (1-8-4 on the road)
Minnesota's record: 7-14-4, 25 points; 10th in the West (6-6-2 at home)
Series history: First ever meeting
Forward Christian Ramirez: He came up with the Loons from the second-division NASL, and has proven his worth with 11 goals this year. Many observers would like to see him get a shot with the U.S. national team.
Forward Abu Danladi: This year's No. 1 overall draft pick has taken a while to get going, but he has three goals in his last four games. Two came in the recent 2-1 win at Chicago that was the team's first road victory in MLS.
Midfielder Ethan Finlay: The veteran winger was traded from Columbus to his home state's team in early August. He has thrived since coming home, with a goal and two assists from his perch on the left flank.