Substitutions made in the first half are typically the result of an injury; even underperforming players are usually not removed until halftime.
But New England Revolution interim head coach Mike Lapper felt he could not wait in Week 12's 0-0 tie at the Montreal Impact, replacing left back Edgar Castillo in the 35th minute with rookie DeJuan Jones, an attacking player throughout his college career and in his previous nine MLS games.
“[Montreal] had serious pace on that right-hand side, and Edgar is a great player, but I just thought they were really building up on that right side, and I wanted to get some more pace out there to match pace for pace,” Lapper explained afterward. “I thought DeJuan came in and did an excellent job.”
Montreal winger Orji Okwonkwo and right back Zachary Brault-Guillard threatened time and again in the first half, and Lapper felt Jones’ athleticism (he finished in the top three in all three performance tests at the 2019 MLS Player Combine) and diligence would serve him well.
“He is an unbelievable athlete, a great soccer player,” Lapper said. “The future is bright for him if he sticks to the game plan and works hard.”
Jones was almost exclusively a right winger at Michigan State, but he had appeared most often on the left for the Revolution, including five starts this season in midfield. He started and played the first 30 minutes at left back in Wednesday’s ‘Final Whistle for Hate’ charity match against English Premier League club Chelsea, and the versatility has to be an asset for incoming head coach Bruce Arena.
“In training, he works his tail off, and in games, he’s ready to go wherever coach is going to put him; he’ll give 100 percent,” Revolution forward Teal Bunbury said. “I was extremely pleased with how he played. His work rate, he was getting forward, making some great runs forward and also tracking back. He was doing great positionally. I’m really proud of him.”
Jones, for his part, was focused on helping New England record their first shutout in six games, going back to a 1-0 win April 20 against the New York Red Bulls.
“I just wanted to keep the clean sheet — that’s been our goal,” Jones said. “[I just wanted to] work as hard as I can, use my speed to get down the flanks and try to get the result today.”