Kenwyne Jones a bright spot for Atlanta United in controversial loss to Impact

Kenwyne Jones Atlanta United MLS 041517
The Trinidad and Tobago forward's performance was the biggest positive for Atlanta in a frustrating loss to Montreal.

MONTREAL — Atlanta United coach Gerardo Martino wasn’t in a very talkative mood after his team's 2-1 loss the Montreal Impact Saturday afternoon at Stade Saputo, where Kenwyne Jones opened his MLS goal-scoring account. 

Atlanta played down a man for the entire second half after defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez was controversially shown a red card before halftime for contact with Impact forward Matteo Mancosu inside the penalty area. Referee Alan Kelly also awarded a penalty shot, which Ignacio Piatti converted to put the home side level—Jones, in his first start with Atlanta, had given the visitors the short-lived lead in the 40th minute.

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“The red card was given for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity,” Kelly said. “I saw an upper body foul in the penalty area, with no genuine attempt to play the ball”.

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When asked for his opinion of the sending off, Martino’s answer was a terse “no comment”. But he did have a little more to say about the fact that the red card was Atlanta’s third in six games this season.

“It’s excessive,” Martino said, through a Spanish interpreter. “Maybe not strange, but a little excessive.”

Asked whether he felt Montreal defender Victor Cabrera deserved a red card for a dangerous tackle from behind on Miguel Almiron in the first half, the Argentine coach gave a rare answer in English.

“For me, yes,” he said.

Forced to play the entire second half down a man, Atlanta lost the game on a goal conceded in the last second, which snapped the team’s four game unbeaten streak since the 2-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls on the first day of the season. Despite the result and the referee controversy, Martino was happy with the team’s performance.

When it came time to speak of Jones, who got his first MLS start, Martino was more forthcoming.

“I think he played a very good game,” Martino said. “I thought he put in a very good effort, and a very good game, even in addition to the goal. I think the whole team played a good game, having to play in different ways in the first half and in the second.”

Though Jones struggled to find minutes with Atlanta in the first five games of the season, he showed his value in the 73 minutes he played before being subbed off. Aside from the goal in the 40th minute, where the Trinidad and Tobago striker finished well and showed plenty of poise in a breakway situation, he also won many aerial duels and helped Atlanta in possession with strong back-to-goal play.

In the absence of designated player Josef Martinez, who’s sidelined with a left quad injury, Martino is spoiled for choice in the attacking third.

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“We can look to play more long balls to him,” Martino said. “He’s a completely different forward than what Josef is. Kenwyne is really physical, he’s good at holding the ball up, and he’s also good in the air.”

If not for the red card, it might have been a perfect MLS start for Jones, who’s played over 200 games in the English Premier League with Southampton, Sunderland, Stoke City and Cardiff.

“I think we could have gotten all three points here today,” Jones said. “We were dominating the game until the point of the penalty and the red card, but these things happen. We have to take these experiences and build on them.”