Perhaps it's fitting that Derrick Jones ended up in Philly. Like Rocky, the famous and unfortunately fictional boxer from the City of Brotherly Love, Jones doesn't dodge contact. The powerful midfielder has a tendency to draw in defenders, but instead of moving the ball at the last moment he takes the hit, shakes it off, and keeps on rolling. Except when he doesn't. In those moments, when Jones can move the ball but instead waits, takes a hit, and sees the ball pop loose create suddenly dangerous situations for the Union.
Jones saw his minutes cut nearly in half this season, from around 700 in 2017 to a shade under 400. He made only three starts, all after July and two on long west coast road trips. For much of the season, when Jim Curtin needed to add defensive nous to his midfield, he was more comfortable calling on veteran Warren Creavalle than the young Jones.
The question to ask when thinking about Derrick Jones' 2018 season is this: Did it hurt or help his development? Jones is still 21, and he remains chock full of talent. Did the Union waste a season of that talent by keeping their big homegrown behind Ale Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin all year?
Maybe, but probably not. Jones, along with Anthony Fontana, is a poster child for the value of Bethlehem Steel FC. Jones made 14 starts and played over 1200 minutes for Steel FC this season, scoring four goals in USL. Under Brendan Burke, Jones was able to play pro minutes against high quality competition (he scored against future MLS side Cincinnati FC) even though his path to the Union first eleven was blocked by one of the best midfields in the league. Jones' development paid off when Jim Curtin was able to turn to his young midfielder for trips to Portland and Seattle, getting strong, mature outings both times.
Jones is also a player that could fit with the more dynamic style of play Union Sporting Director Ernst Tanner would like to see going forward. However, any major role for Jones comes with one major caveat: Can he play at his peak level consistently over an extended period of time?
That peak? It’s quite high. And when Tanner talks about developing good players into game-changers, Jones has to be high on his list. 2018 was a season of growth for Derrick Jones, and now he enters an offseason in which he can push to take the next step toward stardom.
Jones was more than solid in starts against Seattle and Portland and very, very good against Sporting KC. But this goal for Bethlehem Steel FC against Richmond… man, that’s a big fella with skill rumbling through the lines. It’s the first highlight in the tweet below.
Starting things off, who do you want in the final from these three beauties! pic.twitter.com/Dhl5eORZ6k— Bethlehem Steel FC (@BSteelFC) November 6, 2018
Outlook for the future
Ernst Tanner will make changes to how the Union play. How extensive those changes are has yet to be revealed, but when they are Jones will have a good idea of what role he should be aiming to take up in 2019.
Then he has to put in the work to grab it and make it very hard to pry away.