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.”
DeJuan Jones was the 11th overall pick in the 2019 MLS Superdraft to the Revs. Tajon Buchanan was 9th overall in the same draft to the Revs.— MLS Buzz (@MLS_Buzz) August 15, 2021
They’re both being chased by European clubs, some of them in Champions League, and they connected here beautifully.pic.twitter.com/Vd19kE6VUq
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.