Bethlehem Steel FC agreed to terms with midfielder Derrick Jones to become the club’s first-ever player signing, the team announced Thursday. Jones, a dual-national citizen who moved to Philadelphia from Ghana four years ago, was signed directly from the Philadelphia Union Academy where he spent the last three seasons. Per club and league policy, additional terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“We’re absolutely ecstatic to have a player of Derrick’s caliber join our club and we can’t think of a more fitting player to be our first signing,” Bethlehem Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke said. “Over the past few years, he’s shown us his great potential both at the Academy and at First Team training, and we couldn’t be happier to keep him within our organization to continue his development. As we begin to build a competitive team for next season, I think this move speaks to our commitment to serve as the vital connection between our great Academy and the Philadelphia Union.”
Jones, 18, becomes the first player in Bethlehem Steel FC history and currently lives in the City of Philadelphia with his family. Born in Bantama, Ghana, he moved to Philadelphia four years ago and carries dual national citizenship with the United States and Ghana. He joined the Philadelphia Union Academy from Junior Lone Star in 2013 and immediately made an impact for the U-16s. The following year in 2014-15, Jones played in 26 games with 21 starts for the Union U-18s. He scored eight goals while helping lead the team to the United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) playoffs, where they finished second in group play. He’s scored three goals in eight games for the U-18s so far in 2015-16.
“We discovered Derrick when he played in a friendly match against our U-18s for Junior Lone Star,” Philadelphia Union Academy Director Tommy Wilson said. “My recollection was that he was the best player on the pitch that day and we decided to take Derrick in on trial and quite quickly realized that here was a boy with great potential. He also joined our school and now shows a passion for learning both on and off the field. Derrick’s father and grandfather are from Ghana and entrusted us with Derrick’s future and development. I am proud that the faith they had shown in us has come to fruition and he is the first pro signing from the Philadelphia Union Academy. My hope is that Derrick can fulfill the potential that he’s shown, perform well for Bethlehem Steel and in the fullness of time, make the next step to the First Team.”
“Today is really a proud moment for both our academy and for Derrick, but it’s because of his commitment on and off the field that got him to this point,” Union U-16s head coach Jeff Cook said. “His progression through our academy has been because of his hard work and dedication, and we’re thrilled he’s staying within the Union family. We’re looking forward to watching him succeed at the next level.”
Bethlehem Steel FC was officially announced on Oct. 27, 2015. They will serve as the Philadelphia Union affiliate in the United Soccer League and will play their home games at Goodman Stadium on the campus of Lehigh University. They will officially join USL for the 2016 season, alongside fellow expansion teams FC Cincinnati, Orlando City B, Rio Grande Valley FC Toros and Swope Park Rangers to form the 28-team league. Former Union assistant coach Brendan Burke was named head coach on Oct. 28 and will lead Bethlehem Steel FC in its first season.
Fans interested in season tickets can call 1-844-STEELFC or visit www.bethlehemsteelfc.com to see full ticket prices and view a stadium map.