The Union agreed to trade midfielder Derrick Jones to forthcoming MLS expansion team Nashville SC on Thursday, ending the tenure here of the first player to rise from the club’s academy to its first team.
Because Nashville won’t join MLS until next season, the trade won’t officially take effect until January 1. Jones will spend the rest of this season with the USL team in Nashville run by the MLS club’s ownership. In return, Nashville will send the Union $175,000 of general allocation money. If Nashville later sells Jones to a foreign team, the Union will get 20 percent of the fee.
Jones, 22, lived through a remarkable story on and off the field while here. Born in Ghana, he moved to Southwest Philadelphia with his family in 2012, and joined the Junior Lone Star youth team that has become a home for many West African immigrant children.
Union academy director Tommy Wilson saw Jones in a 2013 friendly between Junior Lone Star’s under-19 team and the Union’s under-18 team, and recommended that Jones be brought to the Union academy. Jones rose through the ranks there, and in December of 2015 signed his first professional contract with Bethlehem Steel. Seven months later, he moved up to MLS.
But since then, he has faltered. Last year, just four of his 12 games played were starts, and most of his appearances were second-half cameos. This year, Jones made two appearances for the Union, both as a second-half substitute. He has not gotten onto the field since March 17 and has only made the bench once since then, instead spending time with Bethlehem.
Jones has ample skill as a passer and disruptor, which is why U.S. Olympic team coach Jason Kreis brought him to a player evaluation camp and two friendlies in March. But the mental side of Jones’ game has not measured up, and there have been signs of frustration over that within the Union’s ranks.
In a statement with the announcement of the trade, Union sporting director Ernst Tanner noted that Jones has had also some off-the-field issues to deal with. This move might help put those aside.
The Union are willing to take the risk that Jones fulfills his potential elsewhere. And if that results in a sale abroad, the Union will get a piece of the check.
“We would like to thank Derrick for his contributions to the Union over the past four seasons,” Tanner said. “Derrick has been through some difficult situations this season, both on and off the field, and both he and the club agree that a change of scenery is best for all parties involved at this time. All of us wish him nothing but future success with Nashville.”