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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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Sporting KC acquires winger Marinos Tzionis 

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Sporting Kansas City announced the addition of another young player with the signing of 20-year-old winger Marinos Tzionis from Omonia Nicosia in Cyprus. Tzionis has signed a three-year MLS contract through 2024 with an option for 2025 and will occupy an international spot on Sporting’s roster pending receipt of his International Transfer Certificate and P1 visa.

Tzionis has been rumored for a little over a week and he is the third young international signing this month. Robert Voloder was announce on Jan 19th and is a 20-year-old German center back. Logan Ndenbe a 21-year-old Belgian left back signed on Jan 14th. All eligible for the MLS U-22 Initiative.

SKC manager Peter Vermes and staff will likely not designate who is or is not a U-22 Initiative player until roster deadline day shortly before the season. They can take their time to decide while adding other potential players.

Just this morning, reports were coming in that he had signed and gave some numbers around the acquisition The reported transfer fee was said to be between €1.5 and €2 million, between $1.69 and $2.26 million in US Dollars and Omonia would retain 10 percent of any sell on fee. It was also reported that Tzionis would be paid €300,000 plus bonuses, $338,880 in US dollars.

Tzionis was born and raised in Nicosia, Cyprus and grew up playing for Omonia Nicosia’s academy before signing for their first team as a 15-year-old in 2017 and made his first appearance for them in 2018. The young winger made a few appearances for the first team over the next couple of years but he started to really be noticed in the 2020-21 season. Seven goals in 43 appearances and helping his club to first place with a 23-3-10 record.

The young attacker has also represented his country at the U-17 and U-19 youth levels and then the senior team starting in 2020 with a total of 13 appearances.

Tzionis is right-footed and mainly plays on the left wing where Vermes tends to like wingers who can cut inside. He has some time at attacking mid and second striker as well.

Highlights of goals.



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Report: DC United signing Greek forward Taxiarchis Fountas as Designated Player

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Fountas has a track record as a leading goalscorer in Austria’s top flight, netting 35 times in 68 league appearances. He broke onto the professional ranks in Greece with AEK Athens from 2011-13 before heading to Red Bull Salzburg.

The club’s forward group is currently headlined by Ola Kamara, who finished second in the Golden Boot presented by Audi race last season with 19 goals in 28 games, ceding the top honors to NYCFC‘s Valentin Castellanos via the assists tiebreaker.

D.C., heading into their second year under head coach Hernan Losada, missed an Eastern Conference spot in the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs by one point.





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Not another Freddy Adu: RSL’s Axel Kei ready for challenge as youngest-ever MLS signing

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You can draw the comparison if you must. He’s ready for that. In fact, this month’s milestone is actually the second time he’s broken one of Adu’s marks, having already made his pro debut back in October, when he appeared for Real Monarchs in USL Championship action on an academy contract. Kei was 13 years, 8 months and 9 days for the first record; he was 14 years and 15 days for the second.

“The whole pressure of Freddy Adu and all that stuff. I saw all that, I read all the articles, I watched all the YouTube videos,” noted Kei. “Of course there’s going to be people that want to see – ‘oh, this kid, we heard this kid is good, he’s out here breaking records, whatever, I want to see what he has, see what he got.’

“I’m not letting that get into my head. This is just like, I’m still gonna be me. I’m still gonna train. Not because people are saying they want to see this, they want to see that, that I’m gonna change my playing style. It’s just the way I am, I’m not going to change this. I’m still going to be the same Axel Kei, I’m still gonna play how I play. It’s just focusing on what I like to do – soccer.”

If you’re struggling to set a fair barometer for Kei, consider that Beltran and his colleagues at Zions Bank Training Center know all about Adu’s story. How burdensome a record like that and the comparisons it generates can be. And yet Kei’s abilities are so striking, his upward trajectory already so steep, that they could not avoid the conclusion that Salt Lake should sign him now anyway.





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