I've been a Kenwyne Jones fan for a long time. I've seen him terrorize CONCACAF at the international level for years. I remember when his Sunderland teams were challenging for Europe. He's been a quality striker at every level and every stop of his career. After watching his debut for Central FC, I'm ready to confidently say that his tenure with Atlanta United will be no different.
That’s not much of a bold prediction considering his track record, but I’ll take it a step further. He's not only going to be a quality striker, he's going to dominate MLS.
You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Well Rob, you're an Atlanta United supporter, of course you'd think that.” — While that's certainly true, I don't make that claim lightly.
Jones’ performance in his debut against Sporting KC alleviated any concern that he's somehow lost a step or regressed as a player. In his first match in months and probably at only 75 percent fit, he was the best player on the field by a long shot. As a target man, Jones held the ball up for his teammates superbly. It only took him five minutes to find his first great chance at finding net. After receiving a pass, he squeezed by a defender to go in clean on goal. Unfortunately his weak footed shot was mishit.
In the second half he made his presence known. His perfect chest down of a long ball and eventual through ball to a teammate led to Central’s equalizing goal. He wasn’t credited with an assist, but that goal never happens without his piece of skill.
Soon after, he scored his goal. The play started with him collecting a pass at midfield on the counterattack, finding his teammate, then making an overlapping run into space. He took the return pass in stride at a tough angle, lined up a right footed shot and slammed it past the SKC keeper at the near post. It was a confident finish of a proven goal scorer, despite it being his first match in a while.
CONCACAF is a tough region to master and MLS is no different. Kenwyne Jones has succeeded at the international level here and this match proves he’ll have no problem replicating that at the club level.
When looking specifically at MLS, strikers like Jones often succeed. Big target men with a prolific goal scoring history usually have no problem producing in this league. Players like Didier Drogba, Kei Kamara, and Jozy Altidore come to mind when thinking of comparisons for him. All three, when healthy, are dominant forces in MLS. Defenses in this league just aren't capable of combating a competent target striker who can hold the ball up and get on the end of chances.
Atlanta United have already begun surrounding Jones with quality players. More will follow once the offseason begins. When we get a clearer picture of what the team’s roster will look like, we can make more specific predictions about production. As we stand now, I'm fairly confident that Jones will be a dominant striker in MLS as long as he stays healthy and hungry to succeed.
I was thrilled when Jones signed with Atlanta, but there's always doubt about players coming into MLS and producing. After seeing him shine against MLS competition in his first match on loan, I believe he'll be exactly the type of striker to set the league on fire in 2017 and beyond.