Trinidad and Tobago winger Joevin Jones has broken his silence on the reason why he snubbed a call-up by Men’s National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence to face Honduras in a crucial Concacaf Nations League fixture this evening in San Pedro Sula.
Jones, who won his second MLS Cup with Seattle Sounders on 10 November, insisted that he was as eager as ever to represent the Soca Warriors but has grown tired of life as a fringe player under current head coach Dennis Lawrence.
“I rather stay home with my family than be in environment where they don’t appreciate me and respect me,” Jones told Wired868. “To me, it pains. It [really] sucks because all I want to do is to represent my country.”
The gifted, versatile 28-year-old player’s public statement on his deteriorating relationship with Lawrence came after the national coach revealed on Friday that Jones and another MLS star, Kevin Molino, ‘chose to make themselves unavailable for both matches [against Ecuador and Honduras] after being called up’.
Jones has 77 senior international caps with Trinidad and Tobago with eight goals and has operated at left back and both attacking flanks for his country. Only defender Daneil Cyrus (90 caps, zero goals), captain and central midfielder Khaleem Hyland (87 caps, four goals) and goalkeeper Marvin Phillip (79 caps) have represented the twin island republic more from Lawrence’s current player pool.
Jones was a key player in the Warriors’ Concacaf Gold Cup quarterfinal finishes in 2013 and 2015 under former coach Stephen Hart.
However, Lawrence appeared to lose faith in the flanker within his first year on the job. Jones made just one start from his last six call-ups and did not even get off the bench on 10 October 2019 when Trinidad and Tobago lost 2-0 to Honduras at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
Jones’ start away to Martinique on 6 September 2019 was the only time that Lawrence used him in his first team for a competitive match since Trinidad and Tobago lost 3-0 away to Panama on 5 September 2017. Jones scored the Warriors’ only goal in Fort-de-France but was still the first player to be substituted before subsequently losing his starting role again.
The Warriors coach has never said publicly why he appears to have little confidence in the versatile Sounders players and, surprisingly, Jones said Lawrence never told him anything directly either.
“All he ever told me was [before the] Martinique game in Trinidad [on 10 September 2019] that ‘you wouldn’t be starting and support the players who are starting,” said Jones. “From the Gold Cup to now that’s the only time he ever talked to me. Other than that he talks with [teammate Kevin] Molino and my brother [Alvin Jones] about me [and says] that I wasn’t training good and I’m not doing nothing for the team.
“He’s always [talking] with players about me for them to bring back the message for me. His communication with me is not good.”
Jones is not the first player to be bewildered by the cold shoulder treatment from the current head coach. Elegant midfielder Andre Boucaud said he never knew why Lawrence simply stopped picking him after the Warriors’ 2-1 World Cup qualifying loss away to Costa Rica on 14 June 2017—when he was an unused substitute. And Lawrence bluntly refused to answer any questions about Boucaud from the media.
Veteran goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams and defender Radanfah Abu Bakr are two other players who appeared to fall off Lawrence’s radar within his first year.
Molino has arguably had a mixed time with Lawrence. The attacking midfielder, who has 50 international caps with 21 goals, was a substitute in two of his last four competitive games for the Warriors prior to the Nations League. However, he played the full 90 minutes in all three games of the ongoing competition with a solitary item during a 2-2 draw against Martinique in Port of Spain on 10 September 2019.
Molino declined comment on his reason for refusing Lawrence’s national call-up.
Jones said his own decision was made for the sake of his emotional well-being and because he felt unfairly treated. Last Sunday, the former East Mucurapo Secondary schoolboy became the first Trinidadian to win two MLS Cup titles. (Chris Birchall was a second half substitute when LA Galaxy lifted the title in 2011.)
At the same time that Jones was helping Sounders past Toronto FC in the MLS Cup final, Trinidad and Tobago were ramming 15 goals past Anguilla—the worst international team in the world according to the FIFA rankings.
And last Tuesday, as the Warriors had an uncomfortable three and a half hour bus trip across Ecuador in a low budget trip that preceded their sterile 3-0 loss to the hosts, Jones’ MLS employers held an open top bus victory parade across Seattle.
So, Jones decided to skip national duty and what he felt were the negative vibes that came with it. He insists that he still wants to represent his country and has not ruled out playing under Lawrence either. But he says he wants to feel valued within the national set-up.
“I was never treated fairly,” said Jones. “Folks will have a million and one things to say but as an athlete I know the truth and the sacrifices we make to represent this country. I know my worth. I know I love to represent my country but not at the expense of my happiness.
“I want to play but I’m not playing for people who don’t appreciate me.”
Trinidad and Tobago play Honduras from 9pm (TT time) today and anything but a win will see the Warriors relegated from the Concacaf top tier and miss out an automatic qualification berth to the 2021 Gold Cup.
Seven nations have already qualified for the Gold Cup including Jamaica and Grenada while St Vincent and the Grenadines are expected to seal their progress this afternoon.
The Anguilla rout apart, Lawrence’s Warriors have failed to win their last 15 games and they go in today’s affair with a weakened squad due to a combination of injuries and suspensions as well as the loss of five players— Nicklas Frenderup, Andre Fortune, Daniel Carr, Duane Muckette and Keston Julien—due to inadequate vaccination cards for travel to Honduras.