VANCOUVER, BC – If Matt Watson looked like a man possessed in Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s first-round knockout loss to LA Galaxy last week, it’s because he didn’t have a choice.
After plying his trade in the lower tiers of North American soccer for more than half a decade, the Englishman has no intention of dropping out of MLS now that he’s finally made it at the ripe age of 27.
“If I don’t make it here, I have nothing to fall back on,” Watson told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “I’ve worked my way up this high by working hard and I don’t want to go back down. Playing in the lower leagues, it’s really hard. It’s seven months, and you’re not getting paid for the other months – with [me] having a family, when I came here. I just 100 percent wanted to make it.”
While Watson has had a steady first season in the league – he made 10 starts in 15 appearances – he saved his best performance for the club’s lone playoff match, setting up Darren Mattocks’ fourth-minute opener (video below) and doing plenty of running all evening.
Lining up against David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane couldn’t be further away from where he’s been over the past few years, playing with USL and NASL clubs during the regular season and then moving his family in the offseason to play for indoor team Baltimore Blast to pay the bills.
That history and experience is something he draws on – and he’s well aware of what the consequences will be should he fall out of favor.
“I’m an unknown quantity,” Watson said. “If [Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie] lost faith in me, and I didn’t play and stuff like that – other coaches in the league don’t know me. I have no big CV to fall back on.
“It’s all or nothing for me.”
While disappointed to fall to the Galaxy, Watson is proud of the team’s significant achievement of qualifying for the playoffs.
And after essentially playing soccer year-round for several years just to make ends meet, he’s set to make the most of his first true offseason in a while with his first trip to England in three years.
“My mum hasn’t seen my youngest child,” Watson said. “My sister just had a baby also. Playing in the lower leagues, I didn’t really have any time off. This is really my first time off in six or seven years.”
It’s a well-earned break for the player. While his return to Vancouver isn’t assured with his contract up, given his attitude and contribution when it mattered most, there’ll be plenty of the club’s fans happy to see the affable native of Redditch, England, back in Whitecaps colours come March, should Rennie opt to exercise the club’s option.
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com