Trinidad and Tobago winger Joevin Jones has admitted that he owes his country a big performance in the CONCACAF Hex and described next Friday’s Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier against Honduras as “a final.”
Jones was the Soca Warriors’ leading scorer in the semifinal round with three goals, including a vital double in a 2-2 draw with Guatemala in Port of Spain. However, the Seattle Sounders player is yet to score in the Hex—although his strike against Mexico was incorrectly ruled out for offside—while he was substituted in three of Trinidad and Tobago’s six game at this stage so far.
“I think I owe the country in the Hex now,” Jones told the TTFA Media. “In the past few games, I had what I would [call] not awful but bad performances. This is like a final to us. We need three points to stay alive.
“I had a good week of preparation between ball work and fitness. I am looking forward to the game and very excited about it.”
Jones returned to Trinidad last Tuesday—nearly a week ahead of schedule—after allegedly walking out on his Major League Soccer (MLS) employers.
Sounders general manager Garth Lagerway said Jones’ departure was down to ‘personal reasons’ but did not contradict a Seattle Times report, which claimed the former Mucurapo East schoolboy had gone absent without leave.
Sounders did not grant Jones permission to represent the Warriors against Jamaica on Thursday—the hosts lost the friendly 2-1—although the club cannot stop him for wearing red, black and white strip on FIFA international match days or in World Cup qualifying matches.
Jones has already agreed terms with Bundesliga 2 club, SV Darmstadt 98, and is due to join the German second division club in January when he becomes a free agent. However, there are concerns in Seattle that the Trinidadian might be trying to force an early move to Darmstadt before the German transfer window closes on 31 August.
Jones told the TTFA Media that he is focused only on helping Trinidad and Tobago to a result in the upcoming must-win affair though.
The Warriors, who are bottom of the Hex table at present, are likely to need nine points from their next four qualifiers to finish fourth and secure a FIFA Play Off berth against the fifth placed team from Asian Football Confederation.
Australia, Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia are the most likely candidates to represent Asia in the Play Off against CONCACAF with Iran, South Korea and Japan likely to snap up three of the four automatic qualification berths.
Jones said he discusses the implications of the Hex standings on nearly a daily basis with international teammate and fellow MLS standout Kevin Molino, who represents Minnesota United.
“It’s a massively important game for us,” said Jones. “I think everybody is clear about that. Everyday, myself and Kevin have been talking about these games and about how making it to a World Cup can change our lives.
“I think that is in the back of our minds but first we need to take care of business on the pitch and that is the main focus now for Friday and then onto Panama.”
Honduras, who are second from bottom in the Hex with just two points more than the Warriors, are just as anxious to collect three points on Friday. And, just as T&T coach Dennis Lawrence patched up matters with winger Cordell Cato, Honduran coach Jorge Luis Pinto has also made peace with veteran striker Carlo Costly in time for the upcoming contest.
The highest scorer in Pinto’s team in recent times is Houston Dynamo attacker Romell Quito, who has six goals from 32 international appearances. In contrast, the 35-year-old Costly has 32 goals from 74 outings with Honduras—although his last international item was scored three years ago in a famous 1-0 win over Ecuador at the Brazil 2014 World Cup.
“Carlo is playing his best football in years,” said Pinto. “We hope that he can carry on that form for the national team. As the head coach, I know what I should do, and he knows what he needs to do on the pitch.
“We’ve brought him in to the team at an opportune time.”
Honduras spanked Trinidad and Tobago 3-1 in their last meeting at San Pedro Sula on 15 November 2016. Arguably, that result sparked the beginning of the end for then head coach Stephen Hart.
Jones was one of several players who were well below their best on that evening.
“The last time we played them it was not a pretty experience for us,” said Jones. “We conceded early and we couldn’t get ourselves back into the match[…] I wasn’t pleased with the way I performed and now it’s a chance to step up.
“This time, we need to make them know how that experience feels. We are at home and I think we can get it together and pull off a performance that will bring us three points.
“Hopefully by God’s grace and with the right approach, we can get it down right on the day and give the fans something to be happy about and keep our chances alive.”
Tickets for Friday’s World Cup qualifier are on sale at all NLCB Lotto Outlets for TT$350 (covered stands) and TT$200 (uncovered stands).
There are three party group sections for the match with Fantasy/Entice, Illusions Family and Warriors Posse by Winerboy Entertainment with details available on the TTFA’s Facebook Page as well as the respective social media platforms for the groups.
(Trinidad and Tobago squad)
Goalkeepers: Jan Michael Williams (Juticalpa FC—Honduras), Adrian Foncette (Police FC), Marvin Phillip (Point Fortin Civic Centre);
Defenders: Aubrey David (PS Khemi—Finland), Alvin Jones (W Connection), Mekeil Williams (Colorado Rapids—USA), Carlyle Mitchell (East Bengal—India), Radanfah Abu Bakr (Sūduva Marijampolė—Lithuania), Sheldon Bateau (FC Kairat—Kazakhstan), Daneil Cyrus (Juticalpa FC—Honduras), Triston Hodge (W Connection), Kevon Villaroel (North East Stars);
Midfielders: Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Leston Paul (CD Pasaquina—El Salvador), Khaleem Hyland (Al-Faisaly Harmah—Saudi Arabia), Kevan George (Jacksonville Armada—USA), Hughtun Hector (W Connection);
Attacking midfielders: Joevin Jones (Seattle Sounders—USA), Kevin Molino (Minnesota United—USA), Cordell Cato (San Jose Earthquakes—USA), Jomal Williams (Murciélagos FC—Mexico), Nathan Lewis (San Juan Jabloteh), Tyrone Charles (Club Sando);
Forwards: Jamille Boatswain (Alajuelense—Costa Rica), Willis Plaza (East Bengal—India), Trevin Caesar (Sacramento Republic—USA).
Goalkeepers: Donis Escober (Olimpia), Luis Lopez (Real Espana), Ricardo Canales (Vida);
Defenders: Bryan Beckeles (Necaxa), Maynor Figueroa (Dallas), Henry Figueroa, Felix Crisanto (both Motagua), Carlos Sanchez (Honduras Progreso), Jhonny Palacios, Ever Alvarado (both Olimpia), Emilio Izaguirre (Al-Fayha—Saudia Arabia), Jhonny Leveron (Marathon);
Midfielders: Bryan Acosta (Tenerife—Spain), Jorge Claros (Real Espana), Alexander Lopez (Olimpia), Alfredo Mejia (Xanthi—Greece), Oliver Morazan, Esdras Padilla (both Juticalpa), Sergio Pena (Real Sociedad), Carlos Discua (Motagua), Boniek García (Houston Dynamo—USA), Juan Delgado (Honduras Progreso);
Forwards: Anthony Lozano (Barcelona B—Spain), Rony Martinez (Baoding Yingli Yitong—China), Alberth Elis, Romnell Quioto (both Houston Dynamo—USA), Carlo Costly (Olimpia), Ovidio Lanza (Juticalpa), Eddie Hernandez (Motagua).