Jones, who indeed drew a questionable red in his last start on June 18, recounted that story with a laugh from the Philadelphia Union’s training facility Friday. But the 20-year-old midfielder knows the opportunity in front of him is a serious one as he prepares to take over Bedoya’s starting role, beginning with Sunday’s nationally televised matchup vs. the New England Revolution (5 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes, MLS LIVE in Canada).
“I look up to him and he’s a very good player,” Jones told MLSsoccer.com. “Now that he’s not here I have to just fill in his spot and work as hard as he does.”
Bedoya — who could miss the next five Union games while at the Gold Cup — told reporters after Philly’s 1-0 win over D.C. United this past weekend that he has “so much faith” in Jones filling in for him while he’s gone.
Union head coach Jim Curtin also believes the time is right for Jones to take the next step in his career.
“Through his fearlessness, through how brave he is, through how competitive he is, he gets better and better each and every day he goes out on the field,” Curtin said Friday during his weekly press conference. “Are there still gonna be mistakes? Absolutely. But this is a big time for him now with Ale being out for these next two games. He’ll have his hands full. But his fearlessness is what [sporting director Earnie Stewart] and I love in him. It’s what we see every day in training, and we know he’ll be up to the challenge.”
Jones, who was signed to a Homegrown deal out of the Union’s youth academy a little less than a year ago, has been thrown into the fire before. He started the Union’s first five games of the season, including a daunting opener at Vancouver, before being shifted to a reserve role when Bedoya was dropped into a deeper role. And the Ghana-born midfielder burst onto the international scene as a key starter during the U-20 World Cup just after getting clearance to play for the United States.
He and Curtin know there’s still plenty of room for improvement, with the Union coach pointing to his “short-range and long-range passing” and Jones to his finishing.
Now seems like like a good opportunity for him to work on those things and continue developing into the star the Union believe he can be.
“I think maybe people know me a little bit,” said Jones, who admits he’s hoping to get noticed by the senior national team after his U-20 run. “But I have to keep playing good and working hard for a lot of people to know me more.”