MONTREAL – A resolute defensive effort was key to the New England Revolution's performance on Saturday afternoon. That much was clear following their 0-0 draw with the Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo.
One shift made late in the first half had a particularly significant impact on the game, as Revs rookie DeJuan Jones showed poise beyond his years when he replaced Edgar Castillo at the left back position.
“[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-hand side and I wanted to get some more pace out there to match pace for pace,” said interim head coach Mike Lapper. “I thought DeJuan came in and did an excellent job.”
New England had only used Jones in an outside back role twice before Saturday, and both appearances were not during league matches. Jones filled in for Andrew Farrell at right back during preseason against Louisville City FC, and also just a few days before the trip to Montreal when he started at left back in the charity match against Chelsea FC.
Thankfully, the tactical decision to put Jones in this role against Montreal paid dividends.
Almost immediately after Jones stepped onto the pitch he made a lung-busting, 80-yard run down the left side, sprinting past Montreal’s Zakaria Diallo to go one-on-one against goalkeeper Evan Bush as he took a shot on target.
While it didn’t translate to a goal, Jones' hustle and pace impressed his coach and teammates, in turn providing a spark of motivation.
“Carles [Gil] gave me a ball, I took a touch, and then I thought the defender was going to slide tackle me, so I tried to get my touch out in front of him, and then it just turned into a foot race,” Jones said, recalling the sequence. “Unlucky not to score on that opportunity, but a really good chance.”
“He made me tired,” Lapper said, chuckling as he reflected on Jones’ sprint. “I thought he was going to pull a hamstring. He is an unbelievable athlete [and] a great soccer player. The future is bright for him if he sticks to the game plan and works hard.”
The sentiment that Jones has a great future ahead of him is echoed throughout the locker room.
“I was extremely proud with how he [DeJuan] played,” said Teal Bunbury. “He was getting forward, making some great runs forward, and also tracking back. He was doing great positionally, so really proud of him because in training he works his tail off and in the games he’s ready to go wherever the coach is going to put him.
“He’ll give 100%, so I’m really pleased with him, and not only him, but also the rest of the guys.”
When the Revs return to the field next Saturday to host D.C. United at Gillette Stadium, Jones will be hoping for another chance to show what he brings to the squad.