Story courtesy of WMU Sports Information
KALAMAZOO, Mich.- Western Michigan midfielder Darren Jones recently completed a stint on the international soccer circuit, an experience he says has given him a lot of confidence heading into his sophomore season with the Brown & Gold.
As a member of the Under-20 Canadian National Soccer Team, Jones competed in the International Cor Groenewegen Tournament Uitgeest, Holland. The Victoria, British Columbia, native started five of six games and tallied one goal in a 3-2 victory.
"I got the one goal on a free kick," said Jones. "I was kind of in shock."
Jones' goal came in the 39th minute of play against over the Dutch first division team Stormvogels VV. Off a free kick, he drove the ball from over 20 yards out to the top left corner for a 2-1 Canadian lead.
Jones was one of three players on the Canadian roster who had played in the United States and one of just two who had played collegiately (joined by Florida Gulf Coast's Jelani Smith).
Having so many players who hadn't played together before was a challenge, Jones said.
"Off the field, it was tough because it was done in such a short time," said Jones. "You go in with a bunch of guys you haven't met before, and the chemistry was tough. It was a very professional environment."
Not having played internationally required adjustments to a higher level of play and brought praise from his coach at Western Michigan, Stu Riddle.
"It was a bit overwhelming at first, but once I got more used to the style of play and the speed I gained a lot of confidence," Jones said. "Everybody's confidence and individual ability with the ball is really high over there and once I got used to the speed more I was able to gain confidence."
"I am very proud of Darren and his achievements with the national team," Riddle remarked. "To go away as an uncapped player and come back as an international starter that scored is a remarkable achievement for a Western Michigan University player."
The 21-member U20 Canada team placed 11th in the tournament.
"It was a great experience to put on the Canadian jersey," said Jones. "I never would have imagined in my life that I would be able to do something like this. I just took the opportunity and ran with it."
Jones said the confidence he gained playing internationally can help him as he returns for his sophomore season with the Brown & Gold.
"I gained a lot of confidence to come back with," said Jones. "I know I can play at a high level. I think with that confidence I can help our team. We have a lot of young guys and just going out there with confidence can help them."
"This experience will have changed him as a player," Riddle added. "He will now have a new outlook on the game and this will only help him and our team achieve our goals."
As a freshman at WMU, Jones played 16 of 17 games and earned 12 starts in 2009. He finished second on the team with six assists, and was fourth in points with eighth. He scored his first career goal in a 2-1 victory over Florida Atlantic. The Broncos doubled their win total from the previous season, finishing 6-10-1, including a 3-2-1 mark in MAC play.