Defensive changes on tap as United States brace for physical clash with T&T

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — With his locked hair, broad shoulders and finishing quality there is little doubt Kenwyne Jones will be a marked man when he and the rest of the Trinidad and Tobago national team visit Jacksonville on Tuesday evening for the US national team's final match in the fourth round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying (8 pm ET; FS1, UniMás).

Jones, who will hit the field with MLS expansion team Atlanta United in 2017, has scored six World Cup qualifying goals in his career, including two in this semifinal round for the Soca Warriors. In Friday’s 2-2 home draw against Guatemala the Soca Warriors captain started the counter attack that led to Seattle Sounders fullback Joevin Jones’ 45th minute equalizer.

US defender Geoff Cameron is well aware of the threat Trinidad and Tobago’s captain will provide, considering the pair were teammates at Stoke City for two years.

“Knowing Kenwyne pretty well, I know it’s going to be pretty difficult,” Cameron said. “I know it’s going to be a pretty hard hard game. He is physical, strong. They are obviously happy they are onto the [final round] and to advance already, so there is a little less pressure on them. Also, that becomes a little bit more dangerous because they have nothing to lose. It could be difficult. We know it’s going to be difficult. It could make things a little more difficult.”

Cameron played the full 90 minutes for the Americans in a 6-0 whitewashing of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday.

While Friday’s win may have been more of a mental challenge for the Americans — in terms of handling business and burying opportunities — Trinidad and Tobago will be a sterner test. The Colorado Rapids' Tim Howard, who will start in goal on Tuesday night, sees the visitors as a tall and physical squad.

Of the 13 Trinidad and Tobago outfield players who drew with Guatemala on Friday in Port-of-Spain, seven are listed over six feet tall including Jones, as well as Khaleem Hyland and Sheldon Bateau —all of whom have scored in World Cup qualifying.

Cameron will be one of the few defensive holdovers from Friday’s win. Matt Besler left the team to join his wife, Amanda, and newborn daughter, Parker. Meanwhile, DeAndre Yedlin will miss his first World Cup qualifier of the cycle because of yellow card accumulation.

Neither suspensions, nor new faces, will deter Howard who is set to earn his 32nd World Cup qualifying cap.

“I think the way I approach every game in terms of my communication and what I see in the back, trying to get us in the right positions when we are in possession of the ball when we are going forward,” Howard said.

“That doesn’t change, it doesn’t matter who is playing or what team I’m playing for. I have a blueprint on how I approach the game. I’m comfortable with these guys and everyone is excited. We have guys who will probably get a game, who deserve a game, who are good enough to play and are champing at the bit.”