VANCOUVER, BC – It’s been a bit of stop-start season for Vancouver Whitecaps FC midfielder Matt Watson.
But when John Thorrington went down with a hamstring injury at the 17-minute mark in this past Saturday’s scoreless draw with Seattle Sounders FC, the Englishman (above right) stepped in and impressed.
“It was his best performance since he came to Vancouver,” head coach Martin Rennie told reporters after a training session at BC Place on Tuesday. “His use of the ball was excellent, and right at the end, his backheel to Barry Robson for that cross at the end was great play. His overall play was great, and he’s growing in confidence.”
The situation was hardly ideal – the match was just starting to warm up, and between the Cascadia derby aspect and the club’s battle to maintain its spot in the Western Conference’s final playoff position, it’s difficult to imagine many regular-season situations with greater pressure for a player to come off the bench so early.
“It was pretty tough – obviously one minute you’re sitting on the bench and you’re not really expecting to come in at the game at that point,” Watson said on Tuesday. “The pace of the game is moving so fast and you going from a standstill to catching up with everyone is the hardest part. But once you’re in the game and the longer you’re in the game the easier it becomes.”
Watson admitted his play in the first few minutes was choppy before he settled in and put in a composed yet energetic midfield performance.
And in some ways the 27-year-old will be used to stormy seas as it’s been a bit of an up-and-down year – from the highs of signing his deal with the Whitecaps and playing a part in eight of the club’s first nine games, to the adversity of getting sidelined for over two months with an ankle injury that lingered longer than the player expected.
Indeed, since returning he’s hardly played a part – only 181 minutes from four appearances since Aug. 15 – so he’s eager to take this window with both hands, with Rennie suggesting Thorrington looks likely to miss Wednesday's home game vs. Chivas USA (7:30 p.m. PT, Sportsnet Pacific, TEAM 1040 radio).
“Being injured is horrible,” Watson said. “You’re not really a part of the team – you’re not on the field out with the guys, and the bonding you miss out on. Getting back I’ve got more confident and now I’ve got my chance to play and hopefully I can make the most of it.”
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.