Chicago Fire midfielder and defender Joevin Jones scored his first international goal for Trinidad and Tobago, capping off a 3-1 rout over Guatemala in their CONCACAF Gold Cup curtain raiser at Soldier Field and putting in a Man of the Match-worthy performance.
Three first-half goals from Sheldon Bateau, and MLSers Cordell Cato and Jones sealed all three points for Stephen Hart's side as the Soca Warriors' secured their foothold in Group C.
"In the first half, we controlled the game," Hart said after the match. "We pressed well, we covered the ball in good areas of the field, we got the goals and we kept possession well. We made Guatemala chase, which they weren't comfortable with.
"In the second half, we dropped too deep. We allowed Guatemala to play. They made us run and played a little more direct and forced us to defend around the penalty box. It caused us problems."
Thursday's undercard - preceded by Mexico vs. Cuba - got off to a flying start, as Khaleem Hyland's corner-kick delivery met Bateau, who finished past Guatemala 'keeper Ricardo Jerez to give Trinidad a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute.
Three minutes later, San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Cato put his stamp on the match, capitalizing on a series of defensive miscues from Ivan Sopegno's outfit to extend Trinidad's advantage to two with less than a quarter of an hour played.
In the 25th minute, Jones was the beneficiary of some fine link-up play. The 23-year-old combined with Kenwyne Jones in Guatemala's half before slipping a ball behind the defense for Cato to run through on goal. Jones pounced on a loose ball from Cato's initial strike to convert the Soca Warriors' third goal.
"I thought he had a fantastic first half," Hart added. "He did exactly as we like him to do: to penetrate with his dribbling, to deliver good crosses and good passes into the penalty area. Offensively and defensively he did very well, but in the second half, his game went down. He was caught out of position on several occasions."
Guatemala would eventually pull a goal back in the second half through captain Carlos Ruiz just past the hour mark, but it was not enough as a commanding 3-1 victory catapulted the Trinidadians to first place in Group C standings for the time being.
Jones, making his 39th career national team appearance, is playing in his consecutive Gold Cup cameo after helping Hart's delegation advance to the quarterfinal of the 2013 edition, where they were edged by 10-time champions Mexico, 1-0.
"It was very important for us tonight," Jones said. "Every team wants to win their first game in the group stage. We're happy we got the three points tonight.
"Teams will be looking at us seriously now, keeping their eye on certain players, like me. It feels great getting Man of the Match. Obviously, I'm home (in Chicago), so I had to show what I could do. I just want to say thank you to Chicago Fire and my country."
The Soca Warriors head to University of Phoenix Stadium next to face Cuba at 5:30 p.m. on July 12, before wrapping up the group stage against Mexico at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium on July 15 (7:30 p.m. CT).
Trinidad and Tobago Starting XI (subs):
Jan-Michael Williams, Aubrey David, Sheldon Bateau, Daniel Cyrus, Radanfah Abu Bakr, Khaleem Hyland (Andre Boucaud, 77'), Joevin Jones (Lester Peltier, 80'), Cordell Cato, Kevan George, Kenwyne Jones (C), Atualla Guerra (Willis Plaza, 63').
Guatemala Starting XI (subs):
Ricardo Jerez, Moises Hernández, Enoc Vasquez, Wilson Lalín, Kendel Herrarte (Edgar Chinchilla, 70'), Stefano Cincotta (Carlos Mejia, 46'), Jorge Aparicio, Jonathan Márquez, Jose Contreras, Marco Pappa, Carlos Ruiz (C).