Union coach Jim Curtin is attempting to restrain his enthusiasm about 20-year-old midfielder Derrick Jones, but he's having a hard time.
In the Union's first two games, both draws, Jones has been a standout. The first game he was sound and the second, Saturday's 2-2 home-opening draw with Toronto FC, Jones was more aggressive offensively while not abandoning his defensive duties.
"It is two great performances to build on and he has to put a whole season together and that is the challenge," Curtin said. "We don't want too much, too soon and [always] talking about him."
On the other hand, Curtin wanted to get an unbiased opinion of Jones, so he talked to Toronto coach Greg Vanney after Saturday's game. Vanney validated the Union coach's thoughts about Jones.
"He said, 'wow that kid is a man out there,' " Curtin said about his conversation with Vanney. "Jones left a good impression which is a compliment, coming from the other side, the defending Eastern Conference champions."
Jones committed a foul on Jozy Altidore that led to a Toronto penalty kick but neither Curtin, Jones or anybody else connected with the Union felt it was a good call.
That aside, the 6-foot-3, 165-pound Jones has shown great athleticism and physical skill. This has enabled him to keep up with the more frenetic pace of MLS than he had been used to.
"It's crazy, everything has been so fast," Jones said. "I just have to keep going and every time I step on the field, I have to do my best."
Jones and Curtin credit the Union players for helping the rookie. Many have taken him under their wing, none more than fellow midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, who will depart after the game to join the U.S. national team in World Cup qualifiers.
"He has great potential, look at him, he has great size and he is just getting better understanding the game tactically along with his awareness on the field," Bedoya said. "He will be the first to tell you I am hard on him but that is because I believe a lot in him and he has a lot of potential and we are seeing it now."
Next up for Jones is Saturday's game at Orlando City (1-0). After playing in frigid conditions during the Toronto draw at Talent Energy Stadium, Jones and his teammates will be happy to compete in more ideal weather.
Then again, Jones, who appeared in 26 games last year for the Union's United Soccer League affiliate, the Bethlehem Steel, is enjoying his brief time in MLS, regardless of the conditions.
"I have been listening to my teammates a lot," Jones said. "They have been helping me a lot on the field."
And he is helping matters by not looking like a newcomer in the early stages of his MLS career.