FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – DeJuan Jones was first tipped off that he might be getting his first-ever U.S. Men’s National Team call-up by New England Revolution Director of Sports Performance Jarryd Phillips, who had been contacted by the USMNT’s training staff.
“They were asking for my information on my sprints and my workouts,” Jones said. “I think that was my first indicator.”
A text from Revolution Sporting Director and Head Coach Bruce Arena confirmed the call-up, and Jones – at 24 years old and coming off a career year in which he finished fifth in MLS Defender of the Year voting – traveled to Phoenix, Arizona, joining up with the U.S. for a two-week preparation camp featuring intensive training sessions and a series of closed-door scrimmages.
As that camp wraps up late this week, Jones reflected on his first opportunity to impress Gregg Berhalter and the rest of the U.S. Men’s National Team coaching staff, which will soon name the official roster for a trio of upcoming World Cup Qualifiers against El Salvador, Canada, and Honduras.
“So far since I’ve been here, it’s been playing my game, having fun, keeping it simple,” said Jones. “It’s my first camp, so there’s a lot to learn. Guys have been in the system for two or three years, plus. So, you know, it’s a lot to learn for me, but I’m just taking it all in stride, trying to learn each and every day, watching film, doing whatever I can to put myself in the best position.”
Jones is the only first-time camper currently with the U.S., but he’s not without familiar faces. Revolution teammate Matt Turner made his USMNT debut less than a year ago, but has since made 13 appearances for the Red, White, and Blue, emerging as one of the country’s top goalkeeping options alongside Manchester City’s Zack Steffen. He will unquestionably be part of the roster for those World Cup Qualifiers later this month.
Just as he did when Henry Kessler joined his first senior U.S. camp last summer, Turner has offered support, answering Jones’ questions about what to pack for a two-week camp and what to expect day-to-day with the U.S. But at the same time, Turner has also been careful not to be overbearing, providing Jones with the space to build an experience all his own.
“In the beginning, before we came here, I texted him and I said, ‘Hey, if you need anything or if you have any questions, let me know, and I’m here for you, you know that,’” said Turner. “It all went without saying, really, but I felt like I should reach out to him and let him know that I was there for him.
“But once we got here, I wanted to sort of let him have his own experience, make connections with whoever he floats to and kind of connects with. I don’t want to control that whole experience for him and be like, ‘Come with me to do this or that.’ Obviously, he knows I’m always there for him, but also at the same time it’s important for him to be able to come here, feel things out, get to know everybody from top to bottom, and really just immerse himself in the experience.”
Jones said the USMNT has immediately felt like a “brotherhood,” and he noted connecting with NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson, D.C. United winger Paul Arriola, FC Dallas forward Jesus Ferreira, and San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Jackson Yueill, who’ve all sat together at the same table for meals throughout the camp.
Another player Jones has connected with during camp is Sebastian Lletget, a new teammate for both club and country, as Lletget was acquired by the Revolution this past December. The pair had never met prior to arriving in Phoenix, but they’ve already begun developing a relationship both on and off the field that could prove beneficial upon their return to Foxborough.
“I’m excited to have him with the Revs,” Jones said of Lletget. “He’s a great player to see him up close. I’m really looking forward to him joining us with the Revs. He’s also been playing on the left side with me, so we’re already forming that chemistry.”
“The first impression couldn’t be any better,” Lletget said of Jones. “He is such a good kid. You can tell how hardworking he is. I’m actually really happy for him because he’s had a really good camp so far. I think he’s really shown Gregg what his qualities are, his skill level, the intensity he plays at. Even for me it’s been kind of nice, knowing that if I play on that sort of left side of midfield attacking role, he’s probably going to be on that side, as well, from my understanding. We’re kind of already creating that chemistry a little bit and kind of knowing his strengths.”
It has unquestionably been a positive first USMNT camp experience for Jones, but the hope is that it’s only the beginning. There’s still much to accomplish and several more steps to take at the international level, but these past two weeks have proven to be a solid first step in that direction.
“To be playing with these teammates that I have now, it’s awesome,” said Jones. “These guys are some of the top players in MLS, so it’s been great. Gregg has just told me that I’ve surpassed the expectations they had for me coming in, so that’s really good to hear. I’m excited to be here.
“Of course, I’d love to be a part of the team going forward, so I’m going to keep working hard and let the rest decide itself.”