Sat, Dec

Captains dominate SWO awards.

Cardiff City FC striker Kenwyne Jones and defender Arin King were voted by the Soca Warriors Online (SWO) fan-based website, T&T's male and female Players of the Year.

Both T&T captains were sensational for their country as fans had no choice but to vote in favour of the pair. Though, Jones did not win the 2014 TTFA Player of the Year award his female counterpart, Arin King did take home the prestigious medal last year.

Jones swept the polls with 30.6% and Arin King led with 14.3%. But it was no run away for King, as Ahkeela Mollon was close with 12.2%. In the men's, it was Joevin Jones and Sheldon Bateau for second and third place with 9.2% and 8.2% respectively.

Once suited up, Kenwyne has been captain of T&T, while King was the obvious replacement in the absence of former troubled captain, Maylee Atti-Johnson. A position King seems to have taken up full-time?

K-9 Jones

Let's start with the man of the moment, T&T's number 9, Kenwyne Jones. The dreaded striker has played 10 games for his country in 2015, tallying half of that total in goals.

While some may say scoring 5 goals is not that many, let's consider a few things. T&T is not a league contender; therefore, there is no point system to count on - at least, for half of those games - as six of the ten were friendly encounters.

Jones has scored 5 beauties and one from the penalty spot in a shootout against Panama at the 2015 Gold Cup, and it was his goal that got them there, after both teams settled for a 1-1 tie after regulation and extra-time.

Three months later both teams met again in Panama City for a friendly match-up. Kenwyne was again on target and scored a memorable and rare goal, unlike his usual headers. The marksman picked up on a back-heel pass from strike partner Jonathan Glenn and unleashed a spectacular 35-yard thunderbolt that left the Panamanian goalkeeper no chance. T&T walked away 2-1 winners to secure a first time victory in that country since 2005.

He had 2 assists against CONCACAF powerhouse Mexico in the infamous 4-4 tie, a game recorded as the most entertaining Gold Cup match ever. More to come on that.

Apart from the goalless draws against US and Nicaragua, what's quite interesting is that the player has come through for his country when they needed him the most. He scored in 2 CONCACAF Gold Cup matches and one World Cup Qualifier (last month) which turned out to be the winner in a 2-1 victory against Guatemala, also in that country and, a first since 1989.

In my humble opinion, Kenwyne's goal against Saudi Arabia at the 2013 OSN Cup was one of the best I've witnessed from him with the ball at his feet, however, he has come very close to beating that, the goals against both Panama and Guatemala were also invaluable, particularly the one against Guatemala. Like the saying goes, “cool like a cucumber.” Surely a contender for goal-of-the-year.

Incidentally, the 6' 4" striker had two not so good moments in 2015, but the evidence was quickly erased by his intrepid and unforgettable performance.

A game of oohh's and aahh's

It was at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup against 7-time champions, Mexico!

The North Americans were leading 1-0 at the half, then in the 50th minute Jones had just accidentally given away the ball in midfield, El Tri accepted the offer with a smile and took advantage of it, punishing T&T to take a 2-goal cushion. After, the Mexicans must have felt that the floodgates were about to open and this would be another sweet victory for them.

Then four minutes later T&T replied via Keron Cummings, but, it would be Jones who started the comeback and proved the chief architect of the stunning reversal. The big man made a Latapy-type run down the centre of the field, blew past 3 defenders, rode 2 tackles, laid the ball in the path of an onrushing Cummings. On its way there, it got through the legs of a Mexican defender, then Cummings opportunistically latched onto the ball to hammer it into the roof of the net. Years of playing alongside legend Russell Latapy must have been finally paying off for the former Sunderland man.

From that point, Kenwyne Jones grabbed hold of the game for T&T with a display of strength, skill and cleverness that won’t soon be forgotten, which was probably also his best in T&T colours.

He then went on to score in minute 54. That brought T&T on level terms (2-2). Cordell Cato delivered an inch-perfect ball toward the near post for Jones to thump home first- time to stun the expectant crowd at Bank of America Stadium.

The giant striker went on to get another assist that sent T&T ahead 3-2. Cummings again was the hatchet man in the 67th minute. Jones made the most of a throw-in by simply blocking out space and creating enough room to chest Aubrey David's service from the right. Cummings anticipated the play and moved himself into position to benefit from Jones' diligent hold-up work. The resulting thunderbolt struck Mexico deeply and thrust T&T into the lead. Cummings' goal, another contender for goal-of-the-year.

Imagine, leading giants Mexico 3-2 after being down 2-0 what sort of message was being sent, even their coach Miguel "El Piojo" Herrera's animated face suddenly disappeared.

Mexico's comeback were inevitable, they responded and with 3 minutes left on the clock, they capitalised on a Mekeil Williams give-away that landed perfectly on Mexico's best player's feet, it was heartbreak for T&T. Guardado's rocket was just too much for Marvin Phillip to handle and Mexico were back in it. Game on at 3-3.

Then came the second Jones incident. Mexico were on the attack down the left, got the cross in the T&T box, Kenwyne stuck out his leg and watched in horror as the ball diverted into his own net to seemingly send the Mexicans through as group winners. Mexico's lead was restored, 4-3. Less than a minute later, Trinidad and Tobago dropped the bomb on Mexico who were already celebrating.

Incredibly, there was still one twist of faith remaining. It was the last play of the game. T&T won a corner. Joevin Jones stepped up, got rained with empty bottles from the vivid Mexican crowd before his in-swinging, left-side pinpoint corner kick connected with Yohance Marshall, who headed home for the game’s final goal, completing the remarkable scoreline at 4-4.

Kenwyne dramatized the game, terrorized the Mexicans and mesmerized the viewers with his dominant performance. He had scored an unstoppable goal, made 2 assists, rattled the goal post, and individually bullied the Mexican defenders who could not have contained him. He totally made up for two mistakes; moreso, one he could not defend.

After the game, Jones said: “The game was filled with up and downs ... They went 2-nil up, then coming back and going on top, they going back on top, us tying the game—I think it’s something that fans dream of. I don’t think there was a game like that in the Gold Cup so far. I’m pretty sure it’s going to attract quite a few more people to watch it.”

As for Mexico, the results did not sit well for them and they did the unthinkable. They fired their coach for a so-called alleged incident with a journalist but then invited T&T for a friendly game 2 months later as to say, “you got lucky, let's try this again”, that game drew 3-3 and without Jones.

As, for his club career: To the end of last season, Jones made six substitute appearances for A.F.C. Bournemouth while on loan with the club as they sought additional fire-power to help improve their chances of getting into the 2015 Premier League. He scored one which came on his debut in a 1-1 tie with Ipswich Town. His goal earned the Cherries a solitary point and set them on a track that won promotion to the top flight.

His temporary loaned expired and he returned to his mother club Cardiff City for the start of the new 2015-16 season. Jones has already scored 5 goals, took over 29 shots with 21 of them on target and recorded 3 assists thus far.

The striker exceeds all expectations especially for his country and is well on his way to becoming one of T&T's top strikers after Stern John (70 in 115) and Cornell Glen (23 in 68). Midfielders Angus Eve (34 in 117), Russell Latapy (29 in 81) and Arnold Dwarika (28 in 73) lead from midfield.

A 5-star King

The jersey tells her tale. She wears number 5 and that's exactly how many stars I'll give her whenever she suits up for her adopted country.

Yes, I did write a book about Kenwyne's achievements above, no hiding from that. But Arin King is a little more difficult to keep tabs on because there are no statistics on her club record and in 2015, T&T's Women team has only played a handful of games until lately when they were thrown into the firing-line after a long gap of inactiveness.

One thing I can tell you, the stopper is immense in defence. She keeps things tight and tidy at the back and could very well be a contender for the men's team, metaphorically speaking that is.

In-spite of the bad treatment the team normally gets from their employers (past), nothing stops King from representing her country. She has been the anchor in defence, the protector for her keeper and the starter of T&T's attack. Everything begins and ends with her.

King became the first foreign-born T&T player (both men and women) to ever be named Player of the Year by the TTFA/TTFF. She was born and raised in Pickering, Ontario (a city outside Toronto) and despite her short stay with the Canadian National U­nder-17 team in 2007, King quickly changed alliance and since then, she has never looked back. She is now a proud T&T warrior.

King also came through the T&T youth system before graduating to become a full-time T&T international. Had she stayed in Canada, no doubt she may have been on the current Canadian side.

In April 2015, King found out that she strained her MCL while on duty for Trinidad & Tobago in its final World Cup qualifier against Ecuador last December. As a result, she had to cut short a trial with NWSL team, the Houston Dash and return home for a series of rehabilitation.

A month later, King was back on the field.

In early June the solid defender was named as one of the marquee players drafted in to participate in the inaugural Women’s Premier League (WPL) in Trinidad. A league that fielded many international players from Canada, Guyana, Venezuela, Jamaica, Costa Rica, England, USA, St Kitts, St Vincent, Guyana, Barbados, Colombia, US Virgin Islands, Paraguay and even Brazil.

Arin suited up for the Dragons and despite having international team-mates Lauryn Hutchinson and Dernelle Mascall by her side, in addition to a few Brazilians and players from Venezuela and Paraguay, the Dragons failed to win any silverware. For her troubles, she was not included in the WPL All Star Team which were voted by the coaches of the league teams.

In her defence, she was working her way back to fitness after the lengthy injury. However, all was not lost, as the tournament served as a preparation for the T&T national team who were schedule to fly out to Toronto in July to compete in the 2015 Pan American Games.

King went on to represent her country with pride and passion in her native Canada as they pulled off some impressive results against giants, including a 2-2 tie with Argentina. Then a 1-1 draw with 2014 World Cup Round of 16 qualifier and group leaders, Colombia, before bowing out to Mexico 3-1.

A few months later King captained her side to successive Caribbean titles in the 2015 CFU Women’s Olympic Qualifiers series. The Women Warriors demolished St Lucia on a 14-1 aggregate two-legged series to breeze into the Caribbean semifinal round. Took care of Jamaica with a come from behind 2-1 win. Then sealed a narrow 1-0 victory over Puerto Rico to regain the title.

Two weeks later, King and her troops were rushed off to a series of friendly games including two against 2014 World Cup champions, USA in Hawaii and Texas respectively. The first match was cancelled due to an unsafe playing field and the second match was a disaster for T&T. The Women Warriors did not do too well and weredogged 6-0 to the 3 time world champions.

The team was not settled mentally and threatened to strike before the US match if they were not paid money owed to them. As a result, the USSF had to fork up US$12,500 to pay the T&T players.

After the game, more problems hit as half of the team flew out to South America to meet up with the reserve players that were sent out last minute to compete in the International Women’s Football Tournament hosted in the city of Natal, Brazil.

Coach Randy Waldrum and his assistant Ben Waldrum did not have enough time to acquire visas and had to stay back in the U.S.

King, and the few that made the trip, walked straight into the lions' den after finding out that the reserves had fallen 11-0 to Brazil. Still, jet-lagged from their long trip from San Antonio, King suited up and rallied her troops but could not hold off a talented Canadian side and as a result they fell to a 4-0 defeat. Mexico also got the better of them twice, 3-0 and 2-1 in a third place play-off match.

Obviously, the results were not good, but playing a few extra games is something the women's team don't see much of. Hopefully, the gamble pays off and the team gets much needed practice for the more important games that lie ahead.

What is also revealing is that a lot of new players were used in the last month and one would expect to see a few new faces emerge as T&T builds towards the final round of the CONCACAF Olympic Qualification scheduled for February 2016 - a mere 2 months away - T&T are drawn in the same group as Guatemala, Guyana and Canada in Group B of the eight-team competition.

The Soca Women Warriors will play all their matches at the BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas.

No doubt this is one of the best T&T sides to come along in quite sometime and if T&T is planning to create history and qualify for its first ever Olympic game participation, they will surely need their new captain to be healthy and ready to battle for the Red, White and Black.

Her name always appears first on coach Randy Waldrum's squad list - that's how important King is to her coach, team and country.

Soca Warriors Online on behalf of its followers would like to say thank you to both individuals and also the rest of the team and the entire staff members who make all of this possible. Good luck in 2016.

The SWO is an independent online fan website dedicated to Trinidad and Tobago football and does not reflect any awards or accomplishment coming from the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA). We are just happy to pay respect to our athletes who have made our country proud.