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Learning from Kenwyne Jones’ performance against USMNT

If USMNT paid close attention to him, certainly MLS defenses will need to be aware.

Trinidad & Tobago v United States - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Kenwyne Jones, and really the entire Trinidad and Tobago national team, struggled to create a consistent attack against the US Men’s National Team Tuesday night. The frustration was noticeable as he took the captains arm-band off after being subbed off in the 69th minute, and even more so when he skipped an opportunity to talk to the media after the match.

“We were moving the ball too slow. Much too slow,” said Stephen Hart, manager of the Trinidad and Tobago national team.

“Kenwyne, when the ball was played to him he was isolated…it wasn’t played to him quick enough. We just couldn’t mount any kind of attack,” Hart added.

Many of the times Jones received the ball his back was to goal. Typically this is a great tool for most strikers. But, it isn’t much help when your teammates aren’t making runs off the ball. Add a backline that pressures Jones throughout the match to the equation and any kind of attack is going to sputter.

“Any time there was a 50/50 challenge we went in hard and we made sure not to let him get any kind of easy balls in,” USMMT center-back Omar Gonzalez said after the match. “I think he felt our presence tonight and that was our goal and I think we executed that.”

Tim Howard added that Jones is a handful and draws the attention of not just one, but multiple defenders at any given time. “You gotta get someone who’s tight to him, who’s up his backside. And, you gotta get guys tucked around.”

Jones’ frustration is a credit to how well the US contained the Trinidadian attack, but also provides insight as to how Jones can be effective and fully utilized once he joins Atlanta United. He will undoubtedly be a main focus of any backline he faces in 2017. But, unlike last night, he’ll arguably have faster and better help along one of the wings in Tito Villalba, a player who should also draw the attention of the defense.

The attention the Trinidadian draws was apparent through last night’s runs by T&T’s Joevin Jones. On a couple occasions, Joevin capitalized on opportunities to push the ball down the flanks in order to get a shot on goal or into a dangerous area. They were the same kind of runs you could envision Tito Villalba making for Atlanta United.

Within the Trinidad and Tobago national team system, Jones is a lone striker, which might not be the case with Atlanta United next year. Villalba could play alongside him much like Bobby Wood or Jordan Morris were asked to play alongside Jozy Altidore last night. This changes the dynamic and the overall roll Jones plays within an attack. It can spread the backline and create opportunities where Jones receives the ball facing goal rather than the opposite.

Thankfully, Trinidad didn’t need a result to qualify for “The Hex.” The noticeable frustration brought on by a lack of effectiveness hopefully doesn’t linger long in Jones’ mind. Stiffer competition in the next round of qualifiers hopefully means a better prepared Jones in 2017.