By Aaron Tomich/NPSL.com
Personal and professional growth for athletes in any sport can be inspired and spurred on in many forms. Sometimes, it comes from specific motivation. Other times, a certain team or system prepares the athlete for continual upward success.
For Daniel Jones, his growth as a soccer player has been strengthened while playing in a hummel kit for NPSL’s Hartford City FC in Connecticut.
Jones, a natural defender and number-three left back, has played for the Hartford club the past two seasons.
“His vision enhanced our attacking style with a presence on the ball any manager would relish for their lineup,” said current Hartford City FC Director of Football and Head Coach Nick Balistierri.
The left back saw consistent time for Hartford City FC in 2021, starting in eight regular season games (three starts in the playoffs) and made a noticeable impact on the pitch. On his style of play on the back line for Hartford, Jones said there was no set standard on his end.
“Nick [Balistierri] gives me some freedom as he knows I like to attack a lot,” said Jones. “I compare myself to how Marcelo [Vieira – Brazil and Real Madrid LB] plays, so I would consider myself an attacking left back for sure.”
Marcelo’s influence on Jones’ style comes in the form of playing tight with the ball and focussing on acute technical aspects of the game in areas that an attacking back would need to have.
“He’s been my favorite player growing up and I enjoy trying to play like him,” said Jones.
Jones’ versatility has proved its worth for Hartford, as he has provided several assists in the buildup to goals over the last two seasons. That being said, his impact on the team’s performance was present and noticeable, not without purpose either.
“For me personally, Nick placed some pressure on me to become a leader within the club, and based on how I had played in the past, he thought it was a good time for me to step up and be one of the top players of the club,” said Jones.
That nudge for Jones was something he credits his growth to as both a player and person. He said that his confidence in his defending and overall play grew because of that push. Subsequently, Jones felt that he could also begin to mentor other teammates in their growth as well.
Hartford City FC’s team and overall community certainly played a role in his own development.
“We have great supporters and that makes playing for the club very enjoyable, so it has been a great experience so far,” said Jones.
Crediting the system and the community, Jones has thrived with Hartford City FC, and his coach certainly recognized the influence Jones had as a member of their squad the past two years.
“We’re fortunate to have a player with his pedigree, as Danny has gained a lot of interest from clubs domestically and abroad,” said Balistierri. “These past two seasons have been mutually beneficial [for us both], but he’s bound for the next level.”
Photo Credit: Peter Stein