CHESTER >> Union manager Jim Curtin took the inclusion of Auston Trusty and Derrick Jones on the U.S. squad for the Under-20 World Cup back in May as a statement of the club’s ability to develop young talent. Wednesday’s announcement that the duo would take part in MLS’s All-Star week reinforces the notion.
Trusty, 18, and Jones were among 18 players named to the MLS Homegrown Game Aug. 1 in Chicago as part of the All-Star festivities. The team, composed of Homegrown players age 22 or younger, will be coached by Chicago legends Brian McBride and Mike Magee against the Under-20 team from Mexican club Chivas de Guadalajara.
“It’s definitely an honor and a great opportunity for a lot of the young kids in MLS to show what they’ve got and take advantage of the opportunity,” Media native Trusty, who prepped his last three years at Union Academy in Wayne, said Wednesday.
“It feels good,” Jones said. “This is my first time, and I’m excited to go there and experience the game.”
In the fourth edition of the game, Trusty and Jones are the first non-Zach Pfeffer representatives from the Union. The now-retired Pfeffer was included in 2014 and 2015.
The Union are one of four teams with multiple reps on the team — New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas have three players each, while Real Salt Lake also earned two nods.
“It means a heck of a lot to have these two guys that are Homegrowns, that came up through our Academy, came up with the job that Richie Graham, Tommy Wilson, all the coaching staff has done there. It’s special to have them now get recognized for their actions on the field in MLS and in USL,” Curtin said. “To represent the Philadelphia Union badge is special.”
Jones, 20, the fourth Homegrown signing in franchise history when he inked a deal last July, has ascended rapidly. The 6-foot-4, Ghanaian-born midfielder has made eight starts and 11 appearances for the Union in MLS, establishing himself as a steady option as the No. 8 whenever Alejandro Bedoya is away on international duty.
Jones also scored his first goal for the Union in a fourth-round triumph over Harrisburg City in the U.S. Open Cup in June.
Trusty is on the other side of the equation. The Union Academy grad is the only outfield player in the Homegrown Game yet to make his MLS debut. But for the former Penncrest student, who turns 19 in August, the lack of minutes owes to many factors beyond his control, including the Union’s relative depth at center back.
“Auston is preparing himself to be ready for when that moment comes, and I’m confident in the way the kid works, how hard he works, how hard he works after training when nobody’s watching,” Curtin said. “He’ll be rewarded for that at some point in his career.”
Jones and Trusty are among five members of the U.S. U-20s — which lost to eventual runner-up Venezuela in the quarterfinals, 2-1 after extra time, in the tournament in South Korea — reunited for the Homegrown game, joining the Red Bulls’ Tyler Adams and RSL’s Brooks Lennon and Justen Glad.
The obvious benefit is a foundation of familiarity for McBride and Magee to build on in a game they certainly want to win.
“For them in this situation, it’s the fact that they’ve played international games together,” McBride said. “One of the most difficult things of coaching an all-star game is not having that team atmosphere and team understanding, so I think that’s going to be a big part of what Mike and I do, making sure that atmosphere is there.”
The prospect of reassembling that crew is an enticing addition to the accolade. Youth national teams have often formed one of the most elemental blocks of development in American soccer, forging connections and friendships that reverberate through the senior national team and MLS for years. This year’s group seems to have that kind of chemistry.
“In training, we always push each other to play good and work hard,” Jones said. “Obviously we played against each other for a long time, and whenever we play against each other, everybody wants to compete. It’s going to be good going back there and everyone playing together again.”
“We’re all really supportive of each other,” Trusty said. “It’s not like they’re our enemies or anything like that. We’re all in this together kind of, even though they’re on other teams. We all try to establish ourselves in the league and hope we grow with each other as one.”