If the Dominican Republic has the equivalent of a terrorist watch list, Trinidad and Tobago playmaker Kevin Molino is surely on that bulletin board.
The Orlando City midfielder extended his hot streak against the Spanish speaking islanders last night with a hattrick as the Soca Warriors kicked off their 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup qualifying campaign with a straightforward 4-0 win over the Dominican Republic at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
Trinidad and Tobago play Martinique away next on 11 October in the round robin competition, which sees the winner advance to the 2017 Caribbean Cup semifinals and Gold Cup. The second place team will have a last shot through a Gold Cup play off.
Trinidad and Tobago coach Stephen Hart expects a tougher contest in Martinique.
“[Martinique] are littered with players from the French league,” said Hart. “They are very technical. Upfront, they have a player who was at Real Madrid…
“They can be a very difficult side to play especially in their comfort zone, which will be at [their] home.”
Thirty-three year old winger Julien Faubert, who was born in Le Havre, France and was once nicknamed “The Express Train” for his exploits in the top French league, made two appearances for Real Madrid in 2009. His top flight career, which included spells at Bordeaux and West Ham, has been on the wane of late and he was released by Scotland Premier League team, Kilmarnock, earlier this year.
Still, he will surely help Martinique put up more of a fight than the hapless Dominican Republic team did.
The most ambition that the visitors showed on the night came, midway through the first half, when their pint-sized captain Jonathan Faña squared up to giant Trinidad and Tobago captain Kenwyne Jones after the latter player had won a free kick.
Let’s just say it was a badly drawn square. Faña would have needed a step ladder to look Jones in the eye.
Similarly, his team came up woefully short in Couva.
There were precious few fans who even turned up to see the contest. Less than 2,000 patrons came out to support a Soca Warriors team that are preparing for the CONCACAF Hex and, arguably, represent the nation’s best chance of getting to a senior World Cup in a decade.
To put that into context, there was a larger turnout last week to watch Naparima College play Presentation College in the Secondary Schools Football League.
Was it simply a case of local fans not caring to see Trinidad and Tobago’s sparring partner on the night?
Molino certainly didn’t mind. Yesterday was the third time he played against the Dominican Republic and he has seven goals—with back to back hattricks—against the Caribbean minnows, which is almost half his international tally of 16 goals from 34 caps.
“If you look at the goals he scored with the exception of the first goal, it was from just being active in the box,” said Hart. “And that’s a trait that I think is coming back because he used to be that way before… I am really happy for him.”
Molino certainly looked closer to his old self in the first 20 minutes, as he split the Dominican Republic’s defence at will with threaded passes and was as elusive as a butterfly in an open field.
His first goal came in the 14th minute as he hooked home first time from inside the opposing six yard box after defender Radanfah Abu Bakr headed down a Joevin Jones corner kick.
Four minutes later, Molino doubled the hosts’ advantage with an even easier finish, as he nodded across the goal line after Kenwyne had headed on a Daneil Cyrus cross.
Cordell Cato played the most notable role in that item as he flicked up the ball on the edge of the area and sent Cyrus clear into space with a clever half volley.
Let’s just say it isn’t often that Cato can pass himself off as a midfield architect on the international stage.
Dominican Republic Roberto Diaz turned to the coach after just 20 minutes, as left back Ernesto Trinidad was replaced after coming out second best from a collision with Kenwyne.
Did Trinidad have split loyalties? Had Diaz found his problem?
No such luck. The goals kept coming as, in the 30th minute, Cato bagged his second international item on the occasion of his 17th cap, after opposing defender César Garcia inexplicably flicked the ball away from his goalkeeper Miguel Lloyd and into the path of the San Jose Earthquakes flanker who knocked into an empty net.
On came AZ Alkmaar winger Levi Garcia, who replaced Joevin in the 51st minute and created one goal, almost scored one himself and then was replaced as a precautionary measure with a tweaked hamstring in the 71st minute.
By then, Molino had finished off his hattrick with another close ranged tap in, after a thumping Kenwyne header was pushed on to the bar by Lloyd in the 55th minute.
Hart seemed relatively satisfied with the result. He explained that he asked his squad to pay particular attention to their defensive transition last night in terms of delaying counter-attacks and recovering their defensive shape quickly after losing possession.
A vocal minority of the patrons present seemed to have their eyes on something else as, with the result assured, they spent much of the second half cheering on Kenwyne’s every contribution with more than a trace of sarcasm.
It was Kenwyne’s birthday yesterday, and, despite his tetchy relationship with some Warriors supporters, he was in good spirits in the post-match press conference.
“I am happy with my performance [although] maybe unhappy that I didn’t get one [goal] myself on such a special day for me,” said the Warriors captain. “For every game that we play, I will be heavily marked because of my status, which is going to free up players in the team.”
On top of contributing to three goals last night, Kenwyne pointed out that he had a hand in both strikes against Guatemala too in a 2-2 draw last month, which assured the Warriors of a place in the Hex.
“If I am continuously being a target [for opposing defenders] and providing for the team then I will continue to be there,” said Kenwyne. “[…] The outside noise totally doesn’t affect the team. We know what we have to do, we know what we are lacking and we know what we are strong at.”
It was delivered in more of a matter-of-fact tone than as a statement of defiance.
Molino also faced the press to coo about his hattrick. Did he also care to say something to his local fans about his infamous boat cruise with Joevin and Mekeil Williams, three nights before the Guatemala match?
“It was a mistake,” said Molino, who momentarily broke eye contact and looked appropriately crestfallen though his brief apology. “The coach disciplined us and we have to move forward.”
He was not nearly as sorry as the Dominican Republic team were, though.
Central FC custodian Jan-Michael Williams made his first international appearance for Trinidad and Tobago since 8 January 2016, due to a shoulder injury. He had such little work to do with his glove that Hart might easily have started goalkeeper coach Michael Maurice instead.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-2-3-1): 1.Jan-Michael Williams (GK); 5.Daneil Cyrus, 4.Sheldon Bateau, 6.Radanfah Abu Bakr, 18.Tristan Hodge; 19.Kevan George, 8.Khaleem Hyland (14.Andre Boucaud 57); 7.Cordell Cato, 10.Kevin Molino, 3.Joevin Jones (16.Levi Garcia 51 [11.Shahdon Winchester 72]); 9.Kenwyne Jones (captain).
Unused substitutes: 20.Adrian Foncette (GK), 2.Aubrey David, 12.Trevin Caesar, 17.Mekeil Williams.
Coach: Stephen Hart
Dominican Republic (4-1-3-2): 1.Miguel Lloyd (GK); 23.Carlos Martínez, 3.César Garcia, 4.Cayetano Bonnín, 2.Ernesto Trinidad (15.Luís Ismael Díaz 20); 21.Rafael Flores; 8.Rony Beard (14.Jean Carlos López 42), 22.Wilman Modesta, 10.Eddipo Rodriguez (11.Domingo Peralta 62); 9.Jonathan Faña, 7.Darly Batista.
Unused substitutes: 13.Odalis Báez (GK), 20.Luís Espinal.
Coach: Robert Diaz
Referee: Kimbell Ward (St Kitts and Nevis)
Man of the Match: Kevin Molino
Caribbean Cup qualifier
(Wednesday 5 October 2016)
Trinidad and Tobago 4 (Kevin Molino 14, 18, 55, Cordell Cato 30), Dominican Republic 0 at Couva.