Former Stoke, Sunderland, and Southampton striker Kenwyne Jones is in talks with two Major League Soccer clubs over a transfer to the United States, two sources close to the player confirmed to The Yanks Are Coming.
Jones was the spark plug for Trinidad & Tobago’s double comeback against Mexico on Wednesday night to secure the top spot in Group C of the 2015 Gold Cup, a feat the tiny island nation has never achieved. Jones was especially significant in the second half, bagging a goal and also was instrumental in two others, although he did net an unlucky own goal towards the end. The match, which ended in a 4-4 draw, is already being considered one of the best Gold Cup matches ever played.
Asked after the match if he felt this was an audition in the United States, Jones said his past speaks for itself. “No, absoutely not. I don’t think I have to come prove myself. I’ve been playing in England all my career – what…12, 13 years? – so I don’t think I have to come prove myself and what I can do.”
Jones has been playing with the Trinidad & Tobago national team for 12 years, and has 75 caps, the 9th most in his country’s history. He likened Wednesday’s emotional comeback to a 2005 World Cup qualifier against Mexico, where the team came back to win 2-1 and secure a qualifying place in the Hexagonal, eventually qualifying for the 2006 World Cup. He mentioned how he was just 19 years old then, and how this match can be for the country’s younger players what the 2005 game was for him.
Jones is currently under contract with Cardiff City until the summer of 2016 but his future there is in question. Since signing with Cardiff City, he’s scored 13 goals in 47 Championship appearances, and was sent on loan to Bournemouth this past March, scoring a goal and proving a positive addition to the squad that would eventually earn promotion to the Premier League. However, his wage bill is reportedly over £30,000 per week, something Cardiff would likely wish to shed while playing in the English second tier.
Speaking prior to training Tuesday night in Charlotte, Jones fell just short of confirming he would be moving to the United States, and spoke very highly of MLS.
“With the league growing such as this, and it being much closer to home for me, sometimes it’s a no-brainer, but it depends on if everything comes together for that to happen,” the Port Fortin native said of a potential move to MLS. “We all know that soccer, or football, here is run different than it is everywhere else, so it might take a lot of things, or it might take nothing for me to be here, so I can’t really worry about it. I’m happy that my name is being linked and I welcome that, but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”
According to a pair of sources, Jones is in talks with two playoff caliber clubs with open Designated Player spots, a position he would likely occupy given he is unlikely to agree to a salary cut to move to the United States.
At age 30 – set to turn 31 in early October – Jones specifically referenced a hope of extending his career in the near future. “Playing football in different places is attractive,” Jones said at Bank of America Stadium. “You don’t get to do this all your life – most people finish at 35 [years old] if they’re lucky.”
Jones has a long history of success as a pure target man in the English game. During stints with Southampton, Stoke City, and Sunderland, Jones has 40 Premier League goals to his name across 195 appearances, plus another 34 goals in 122 Championship matches. He’s had even more success in limited action outside of league play, with 19 goals in 40 appearances between the FA Cup, English League Cup, and Europa League.
It’s easy to point to both the present and past history of target men in Major League Soccer as reasons why Jones could be successful in the league. Most recently, Columbus Crew striker and the league’s current leading scorer Kei Kamara – who had much less success in the English game than Jones – is tearing up opponents with 12 goals through 19 games. Jones ability to win the ball in the air or make the difficult hold-up play with a defender draped over a shoulder, like he did on this Trinidad goal last night, would immediately make him one of the better forwards in MLS.