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SSFC Spotlight: DeJuan Jones turning heads with USMNT

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The United States Men’s National Team convened for a second winter camp, to be held from January 7th through 21st with the intention of allowing domestic talent to “compete for spots in World Cup qualifying.” The group features a single debutant, DeJuan Jones, receiving his first call-up at any level. The 24-year-old New England Revolution fullback had a “breakout year” in 2021, impressing on both sides of the ball. At a position that remains unsettled and with a potential transfer on the horizon, he is a fast-rising player to monitor.

Born in Lansing, Michigan, Jones dominated for East Lansing High School. He led the Trojans to consecutive Division 2 state titles, scored the game-winning goal in the second final against Cranbrook, and was named Michigan’s Gatorade Player of the Year and Mr. Soccer in his senior season. At the club level, the striker competed outside of the academy system, playing for TNT Dynamite and Force FC, leading the latter organization to the 2014 National Super Y League title and claiming the golden boot.

Choosing to stay local in order to help a family member raise her child, Jones matriculated to Michigan State, not becoming a starter until his junior season. In his senior year, he captained the Spartans to the semifinals of the 2018 College Cup. His summers were spent playing for the Myrtle Beach Mutiny and Lansing United in the USL Premier Developmental League.

After a strong performance the player combine, the New England Revolution selected the defender/winger with the 11th pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft, signing him to a senior-team contract. “[He] is an attacking player that can play quite a few different positions,” said then-manager Brad Friedel, who would depart the club a few months later. “We’re looking forward to getting [him] acclimated on the team in preseason.”

Jones hit the ground running in his rookie season, immediately inserted into the match day roster. He made 22 total appearances as a rotational starter. His first professional goal came in a 4-4 draw with Sporting Kansas City. Despite adding a veteran fullback, the club signed him to a contract extension, which included a raise and promotion to a senior roster spot.

The next year, Jones became firmly entrenched as a starter, beating out Alexander Büttner for playing time and making 23 appearances over the course of the coronavirus-shortened schedule. He started every match in the playoffs as New England reached the Eastern Conference Finals. The defender thrived under former Bruce Arena, claiming the former USMNT head coach did a “nice job in player management” and brought him to “the best level possible.”

This past season was the breakout year for the 24-year-old. Jones was a key player as the Revolution won the 2021 Supporters’ Shield, setting the league’s points record. He contributed three goals and five assists in 32 matches, serving as a counter-balance in the formation to Canadian international Tajon Buchanan. According to Ives Galarcep, teams from the German Bundesliga, Belgium, and Greece have “expressed interest.” Moving to Europe is “one of [his] goals,” with the intention of securing a transfer “someday.”

However, last month, Jones signed a contract extension, lasting through December of 2024. “I’m happy here with the Revolution,” he said. “This was my third season and I feel like each year we’re getting better and better as a team. So, for the opportunity to re-sign with the Revs for more years to come is an opportunity I was looking forward to now that it’s official, pen to paper… For me individually, just continuing to improve and hopefully I can get some opportunities with the national team.”

In recognition of his form at the club level, manager Gregg Berhalter named him to the USMNT roster for January camp. Jones posted on social media that he is “ready for this opportunity,” a chance to break into the sizable and growing fullback depth chart. After a few days, the defender appears to be taking full advantage.

“He’s been a good surprise for us so far in camp,” shared Berhalter. “We have only trained twice, but he showed the same type of tenacity that we’ve seen with New England. Very athletic fullback, aggressive, good competitor, gets up and down and he is an interesting profile for sure.”

Originally an attacker, the right-footed Jones slotted into left fullback in New England’s 3-5-2 formation. He is a capable passer and dribbler, near the top in MLS at his position for progressive passes, progressive carries, and attempted passes. His “top-level speed” enables him to charge behind back lines and keep pace when tracking down opposing wingers. Tackling, blocks, and interceptions are also frequently on display, making him a fairly complete player.

“Every single day I try to get better and improve,” he said last year. “I’m a right-footer playing on the left side, but I think my left foot is just as good as my right foot. [I’m] just working hard every day, continuing to improve, and varying my crosses, whether it’s a dink, hard cross on the ground, or finding someone’s head.”

Jones took a career path that is becoming less common in American soccer. While the college system has detractors, four years at Michigan State allowed him to develop before embarking on a professional career. At 24 years old, he has an opportunity at winter camp to impress Berhalter and earn a spot on the upcoming qualifying roster. His pace and work rate could make him an asset in the national team’s tactical system, embarking on marauding runs from the fullback position, a dynamic asset in this World Cup cycle or the next.





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Canada vs. USA: How to watch and stream, preview of World Cup qualifier

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Both Canada and the US earned victories this past Thursday to keep pace in their bids to reach the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Canada sit atop the eight-team Octagonal standings with 19 points, with the USMNT one point behind (18) and in second place in the race for three automatic World Cup berths.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Sunday’s game.





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VfL Wolfsburg swoops for D.C. United homegrown star Kevin Paredes

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D.C. United homegrown Kevin Paredes is making the big move, with VfL Wolfsburg swooping in to bring the Virginia native to the Bundesliga. Terms were not reported by either club, but The Athletic’s Pablo Maurer has reported the German side is putting up $7.35 million in their initial transfer fee, with United getting an additional $500,000 if Paredes meets certain benchmarks relating to appearance totals. The Black-and-Red would also be due 10% of any transfer fee Wolfsburg brings in by selling Paredes’ rights in the future.

“We couldn’t be prouder and happier for Kevin to follow his dreams to compete in a great league like the German Bundesliga,” said Dave Kasper, United’s President of Soccer Operations, in a team press release. “Kevin’s rapid rise from our Academy to a first team starter is a testament to his desire, talent, and commitment, as well as a lot of hard work and support from our great coaches and staff at the club. All of us at the club wish Kevin a very long and successful professional career.”

“We are extremely proud of Kevin and the work that he has done to earn his opportunity to play at the highest level in Europe,” said United GM Lucy Rushton. “As a Homegrown, this transfer reflects the commitment and investment our ownership have made in our Academy infrastructure to prepare Kevin to fulfill his lifelong dream. We want to thank him for representing the club with so much pride and wish him the best of luck in his next chapter in the top flight of European soccer.”

Paredes, 18, made his debut in professional soccer with Loudoun United late in the 2019 USL Championship season, and his rise since then has been remarkable. D.C. United offered him a homegrown contract that winter, and while the MLS season was disrupted by Covid-19, a series of injuries and struggles as a club opened the door for Paredes to show what he could do. After making his debut in the MLS is Back Tournament that summer, Paredes used the next couple of months to assert himself as not just a promising youngster, but a player who was going to be a factor every week.

In 2021, under Hernán Losada, Paredes was first-choice whenever healthy, thriving as the team’s left wingback and quickly becoming a fan favorite thanks to his dribbling ability and high-energy style of play. In the end, Paredes made 41 appearances (28 starts) in his two seasons with United.

United will be able to convert $1.05 million of the fee into General Allocation Money (GAM), which they have stockpiled of late. Paredes’ departure comes two days after United made an MLS-record GAM trade, sending Paul Arriola to FC Dallas in a deal possibly worth up to $2.3 million. However, the club has also moved plenty of GAM in the meantime, sending $750,000 to the Seattle Sounders to acquire Brad Smith — very likely the player who will step into Paredes’ shoes on the left — just yesterday.

It’s been a furious remodel for United lately, who have also announced that they’ve signed Designated Player Taxiarchis Fountas on a pre-contract from Rapid Vienna, and have been strongly linked to a loan move for Toluca and Ecuador striker Michael Estrada.

The news of Paredes moving to Wolfsburg serves on one hand as an example to promising young players that United is capable of bringing a talent along quickly. Paredes went from academy program, to Loudoun, to starting at Audi Field, to the Bundesliga in very little time. Despite a record of giving more minutes to homegrown players than the majority of MLS clubs, United has to some extent had a reputation in youth soccer circles that was not favorable.

The club’s Pathway to Pro program was enacted to help change that, and between teenagers like Paredes, Moses Nyeman, and Griffin Yow getting first-team minutes, and Ryan Martin fielding one of the younger teams in the USL Championship over the last two seasons, there is a clear emphasis on shifting that perception. Paredes moving to the Bundesliga at 18 years old will go a long way on that front.

On the other hand, United’s hopes on the field take a hit with the move. Paredes, along with Andy Najar and Julian Gressel, were the players in 2022 that had to be at their best for United to hit top gear. Losing Paredes’ dribbling ability on the left, even with an experienced and respected replacement already in place, will be an obstacle for Losada and co. on the field this season.





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Report: Toronto FC sign Carlos Salcedo from Tigres UANL as Yeferson Soteldo departs

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The move would give Toronto a backline anchor, with Salcedo’s résumé also including stints in Europe at Fiorentina (Italian Serie A) and Eintracht Frankfurt (German Bundesliga). He originally turned pro in 2013 with Real Salt Lake and has been capped 48 times by Mexico.

Last year, Soteldo had three goals and 10 assists in 24 games (19 starts) for Toronto. He’s been rumored to exit after the Reds finished second-from-bottom in the Eastern Conference last year.

It’s the latest development in Toronto’s DP situation, with striker Jozy Altidore also suspected to depart, possibly via a contract buyout. Alejandro Pozuelo, the 2020 Landon Donovan MLS MVP, projects as a key playmaker under Bradley.

Should the Salcedo/Soteldo swap be completed, Toronto would still need to shed another DP before Insigne arrives in the summer from Napoli. Club president Bill Manning, speaking after signing the Italian national team forward to a long-term deal, has assured that won’t be an issue.





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