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Derrick Jones first to travel development pipeline to starting XI

Former Academy and Bethlehem Steel midfielder in starting lineup for the Union’s season opener

MLS: Tampa Bay Rowdies vs Philadelphia Union Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Midfielder Derrick Jones was the first player to sign for Bethlehem Steel FC in their inaugural season last year and the first to play in the Union Academy and Steel before signing a first team contract.

On Sunday night, he became the first to travel the Philadelphia Union’s development pipeline to a spot in the starting lineup.

The 20-year-old patrolled the midfield with Bosnia and Herzegovina international Haris Medunjanin against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

It wasn't just his first start, but his Major League Soccer debut as well.

Jones emigrated from Ghana to Philadelphia in 2012 and joined local club Junior Lone Star FC. He was discovered by Philadelphia Union staff when he impressed in a friendly between Lone Star’s U19 team and, the Union U18s. He joined the Union U16 team in 2013 and played one full season with the U18s in 2014-15 and the first half of the 2015-16 season.

He had five goals and three assists in 26 appearances in the USL last season and made his first team debut in a friendly against Crystal Palace FC. He became the club’s fourth homegrown player when he signed in July.

The three previous homegrown signings - Zach Pfeffer, Jimmy McLaughlin and Cristhian Hernandez - all participated in the Academy when it was more or less an all-star team of players from local youth club affiliates. The Union joined the U.S. Soccer Development Academy in 2013.