The Union’s acquisition of Jamiro Monteiro was on the way to completion before Saturday’s season-opening loss to Toronto FC. But the midfield’s poor performance in that game — especially Haris Medunjanin’s struggles a the bottom of the midfield diamond — increases the importance of Monteiro’s arrival.
Monteiro should add the kind of bite that will free Medunjanin to play to his strengths.
“We all know about [Medunjanin’s] performance during the weekend, and it is not fair to rate him because of that one game,” sporting director Ernst Tanner said. “If we do not assist him and literally leave him alone, it will not help. ... I see that he can a big impact on our game, especially with the ball. We need to assist him without the ball.”
Monteiro will also likely affect Derrick Jones, but in this case, not for the better. The 22-year-old academy product’s odds of playing more are likely to go down.
Those odds were already in bad shape when Jones didn’t make the game day roster Saturday. His absence set alarms off before the 3-1 defeat even started.
The warning signs were there throughout the preseason. Jones’ talent is unquestionable, but what’s missing is in his head. He had plenty of time to earn a place on the bench Saturday, and didn’t do it.
“We need him to do things consistently day in and day out, and earn his minutes,” Union manager Jim Curtin said Wednesday. “We’ve all seen him when he’s gotten an opportunity, and we can see how good he can be. But now doing that over the course of every training session, and now when he gets opportunities with Steel, and also with the first team, being a little more consistent with those."
The Union are not giving up on Jones, a Ghana native who grew up in Southwest Philadelphia and was the first Union academy product to reach the pros. Curtin called Jones “kind of the odd man out” after picking Warren Creavalle to be on the bench this past weekend.
But if you want your academy prospects to flourish — and the Union obviously do — then you want your 22-year-old homegrown player to overtake a 28-year-old who’s mostly been a reserve here.
“Him and Warren were battling for a similar spot, and Warren got the nod this week,” Curtin said. “Derrick is going to compete for minutes. He’ll most likely, if the week continues to progress the way it has, be in the 18 when we go on the road [to Sporting Kansas City on Sunday], and be in contention for the starting lineup.”
That’s a good sign.
"He wants to be on the field — that’s always the case,” Curtin said. “He’s a competitive kid, he’s frustrated as well. He wants to be in the starting team. But at the same time, we picked a group that had the best preseason preparation, who plays the best in training each and every day, and that was the group that my staff and I decided to choose.”
There is time for Jones to fulfill his potential. There will probably be plenty of it. But it’s fair to take a moment to note that as Jones begins his fourth season as a pro, he isn’t yet where people hoped he’d be.