Signing News

Union sign Derrick Jones to Homegrown contract

Photo: Courtesy of Philadelphia Union

Philadelphia Union announced on Wednesday morning the signing of Derrick Jones to a homegrown player contract.

The 19-year-old midfielder was Bethlehem Steel’s first signing, joining the USL club from the Philadelphia Union Academy in December of 2015.

Union Sporting Director Earnie Stewart said in a statement. “Derrick’s progression through our system has been quicker than anticipated and it’s evident that he is ready for the next step of his career. This is a testament to Derrick’s commitment to his trade, and it should be considered a tremendous accomplishment to become the first player to come through our Academy, to Bethlehem Steel, and finally to the First Team.”

A native of Ghana, Jones first played for Junior Lone Star before joining the Union Academy in 2013. He recently made his first-team debut in the friendly against Crystal Palace on July 13, playing 45 second-half minutes.

Jones is the Union’s first homegrown signing since 2012.

News of the signing was first reported by Philly.com on Tuesday night.

For more on Jones, check out his appearance on the KYW Philly Soccer Show podcast shortly after he signed with Bethlehem, and this commentary piece from June.

21 Comments

  1. YES IM HAPPY

    i onow he has flaws and still needs to learn but this is a great sign and start for our development pipeline.

  2. John Ling says:

    Good signing. Kid looked good, I thought, against CPFC. I assume he doesn’t require an international slot?

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      for what it’s worth, which isn’t necessarily a lot, information I recorded back during preseason suggests he does not.
      .
      I have six international slots filled on the Steel as of the end of preseason, Akinyode, Burke, Chambers, Yaro, Ayuk, and Herbers. Add Conneh, Anderson, and Brown.

      The USL Media Guide says you may have 7 internationals on your active roster, and that a team may designate whether a player is active or inactive.
      .
      So, I would assume that Yaro and Herbers are no longer active on the Steel Roster, meaning that the seven slots are filled excluding Jones.
      .
      So, I submit, Jones is not an international.
      .
      Sorry this answer took so long. a long and important phone call interrupted it.

      • John Ling says:

        A couple hours is not a long time, OSC. Thanks for the detailed info.
        .
        I assumed not, because the Union (I believe) currently do not have a slot open. If I’m remembering that correctly, there would have needed to be a corresponding roster move to make one appear. (though that could be as simple as officially loaning Ayuk to Steel for the rest of the year, I think.)
        .
        Good info!

  3. Could Earnie be thinking Jones and a healthy Edu will bolster the midfield while money is spent to bring in a striker?

    • +1. The best part of this is what it implies: that Mo Edu will be coming back fairly soon. So instead of spending big $$$ on a center midfielder, we promote a promising kid to give us some extra cover there for a few weeks. Then when Edu comes back we can bump Barnetta up to the CAM slot where he belongs, and use Alberg as a sub/depth player.

      I am fine having Edu play with Carroll or Creavalle, at least for this season. (Or maybe with this Jones kid, if he shows well?)

  4. el Pachyderm says:

    Thank you for this logical conclusion for my POV. I have watched him at KOP and saw him against Palace and while I recognize OSC POV mine is that this kid is clearly better than his teammate who I haven’t even watched in Lehigh…nor need to.
    .
    This is important for many reasons. It first shows the youth that the sporting director intends on giving young players a chance which matches his vision philosophy and plan. What’s the point of USL if a 19 year old with obvious skill is going to wither in the secondary league till he is ready. This signing comes as no surprise to me…
    .
    Which leads me to this… Jones has had his formative training from an African POV and the JLS… I hope this view of understanding the game is on display in the midfield as America produces plenty of quality midfielders yet IMO none of them are really difference makers or exceptional.
    .
    The Union midfield is a mess and I do not expect this kid to fix it single handedly – as a matter of fact who knows how much time he is even going to see- though I argue for more than C+C Music Factory- what I know through the eye test, is that Barnetta needs to get back to the ten and damn it, Maurice Edu needs to start playing. I voiced my opinion of the state of this team since Noguiera left and that isn’t changing but now it’s all about improvise, adapt and overcome. I simply have to believe this team is not going backwards in term of aesthetic of play.
    .
    .
    I stand by my position that if the SD has the full implementation of his VPP the Philadelphia Union academy to first team will be a conveyor belt of develop, vet, enjoy for a while and sell.
    .
    Sell.

    • “and sell”
      .
      Truer words have not been spoken.
      .
      This is exactly what ES did in Europe and exactly why he is the match Sugarman et al were looking for.

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        Yep. And I am fine with it, as long as ES is doing the evaluation and selling. That’s his wheelhouse.

  5. Old Soccer Coach says:

    El P. Friendly disagreement, right?
    .
    I was vaguely expecting this move at the end of the season, to the extent that I had though about it at all. My question is “Why Now?”
    .
    And someone who is in a position to ask should ask Coach Burke, Jim Curtin or the Sporting Director whether Jones is expected to continue to start for the Steel and if so for how long?
    .
    A third question, which is sheer nosiness, is when did they decide to make the move and how long did it take the MLS head Office to approve it? That information informs inferences drawn from the announcement’s immediate time context.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Sorry if it appears i was addressing our disagreement on the player, that was not my intention… as I respect your POV and contributions as such.
      .
      Regarding your other points they are certainly valid.
      .

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        Your intent was clear, just trying to avoid heat in the conversation rather than light!
        .
        Since I have not seen him as “up close” as you have at KOP/YSC, may I ask for your take on the balance in his dominance between strength and athleticism and technical skill on the ball?

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Indeed OSC. My apologies. Regarding his quality, quick and strong, athletic yes… also tidy in possession good touch.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      If he is gone from the Steel they are down to twelve available USL-contracted players. My best guess would be that Anthony Fontana would start practicing with the Steel rather than his Academy team.
      .
      I suppose Josh Heard could move into the middle. He’s clearly ready to start but has been more productive lately out on the flank than he was earlier in the center (away to Rochester, if memory serves). In good shape, works hard, has the physical strength to shield and turn a defender.. decent feet and a good shot with his right foot (see Pittsburgh at Goodman).

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        In working on John Ling’s question above, I am reminded that the Steel’s USL contracted roster size may not fall below 12.
        .
        They are probably at that threshold right now.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      I wonder if there are any thoughts about Auston Trusty and beginning the same sequence of moves, Steel monetary contract with an eye toward home grown in the future if all goes well.

      • I saw somewhere today that the plan may be to have Trusty plan one semester of College Ball and then sign to Steel to get him Professional experience. Then hopefully he pans out and develops into an MLS caliber player.

    • I think Stewart approaches all of these decisions in a very shrewd and calculated way. Calculate the risk reward and talent/cost of moving a guy like Jones up vs. acquiring a player from overseas. Because the Steel train with the Union in the same facility, they can easily involve players in drills and they can get a good feel for how well he gels with the rest of the team. It’s a really great system we’re developing here in Philly.

  6. pragmatist says:

    A quick reminder again, this is a rebuilding year. We have seen much greater success than we had anticipated, and we have hit a (very) rough patch. But moves like this demonstrate a commitment to the future and, as El P pointed out, demonstrates to kids that our pipeline is a viable path to the big leagues. That is a MASSIVE recruiting tool.
    .
    DJ is not some panacea for the Union’s current woes, but he doesn’t need to be. He needs to be an ingredient in the future that leads to a sustained pattern of success, involving quality signings and development of youth players.
    .
    Since Union players can more easily slide to BSFC than BSFC can come up to the big club, this makes perfect sense. DJ will still get minutes at BSFC when he doesn’t see them with the Union. But minutes will be available for him at the senior level. Let’s hope he makes more of a difference that our previous attempts at young players (this year’s draft crop excepted).

  7. John Ling says:

    Do those more in the know about Mr. Jones see him as the #6? Or is he probably more suited as the #8?

  8. I really like the way this club is going! ES has a great system in place. The fact that he is using it to move the youth to the first team shows the commitment TO V.P.P!! This is fantastic!

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