Kenwyne Jones won't play his first MLS match until expansion side Atlanta United join the league in 2017, but he's about to get his first look at MLS opposition.
The Trinidadian striker, signed by Atlanta United during the summer window and then loaned to Central FC in his home country through the end of the year, has been cleared to play for the TT Pro League champs as they host Sporting Kansas City on Tuesday in Sporting's CONCACAF Champions League opener (8 pm ET; live on SportingKC.com, delayed on UDN).
Central announced late last week that Jones, who was held out of Central's Group C-opening 1-0 loss to Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Aug. 2 because his transfer paperwork had not cleared, is now eligible and expected to play on Tuesday.
In a story reported Friday by SocaWarriors.net, the Trinidad & Tobago national team captain said he was looking forward to the loan spell after a long career in England.
"I had received interest from various clubs around the world, including England," Jones said. "But there were several factors that, combined, made Central the right choice for me. First, I wanted to be closer to the national team with the World Cup qualifiers approaching.
"Being based in T&T will give me a lot more access to [T&T coach] Stephen Hart without the pressure from foreign clubs not wanting to allow you to leave too early. Also, the journey does affect your performance."
The chance to play in CCL was also attractive, the 31-year-old striker said.
"While we all know that UEFA Champions League is the premier club tournament, the SCCL is growing year by year," he said. "Having never played MLS football, this gives me the chance to play a few games against MLS opponents to prepare myself for the upcoming season. It's a great opportunity for me to introduce myself to the MLS public and hopefully increase the interest in Atlanta United."
Speaking of one of those teams -- Tuesday's opponent -- Jones said Sporting impresses him as the stronger of the two MLS sides that Central must face in group play.
"After training with the lads, I could see that lack of match fitness was an issue against Whitecaps," he said. "They were totally beatable and had they played Central last May, Central would have won that game. ... I believe we can get a result against Kansas and get some points on the road.
"I expect Kansas to take four points from Whitecaps, so we need to win two games out of the three remaining games. Once we get some decent practice games under our belts, I'm confident we can turn in a top performance."
Jones has 40 goals in England's top flight and more than 100 in his club career.
"Obviously, he's a very good player, very experienced guy," Sporting manager Peter Vermes told MLSsoccer.com in a telephone interview on Monday. "He'll be a handful in the game, I'm sure, but we expected that to be the case anyway. We'll just have to deal with that as the game goes on."