VANCOUVER, BC – Kendall Waston is as emotional as they come.
His high-stepping, arm-waving goal celebrations will tell you as much. This is a player that cares. A player that wants nothing more than to help his team win. It’s an admirable trait – and one of the reasons Waston has become a fan favourite in Vancouver and his native Costa Rica.
It’s also one of the reasons he’s run into some disciplinary issues in the past.
Waston was suspended six times in 2016. Three of those were straight red cards. In total, he went into the referee’s notebook 11 times. You get the point. In many of those cases, Waston simply let his emotions get the best of him.
And he wasn't about to let that happen again in 2017.
“I didn’t want to lose so many games because of red cards and those things,” Waston told whitecapsfc.com. “It wasn’t nice to be booked all the time.”
And it wasn’t nice to hear about it after the fact.
Waston said his wife, Priscila, is his biggest supporter. But she’s also his “first critic.” After every game, usually on the way home, they break down Waston’s performance – the good and the bad. And last offseason, they had some long conversations about Waston’s discipline record.
“It helps me, but it hurts,” Waston said. “I don’t like to hear it. Those things from last year were very embarrassing for me, being suspended so many times. But this year, I learned from it.”
He certainly did.
There were no red cards in 2017 – and only one suspension due to caution accumulation in Week 29. The conversations with Priscila helped.
So did the additional responsibility of being named captain.
“I’m very emotional,” Waston said. “When I get very upset, sometimes I explode. But I think this year, especially after Robbo gave me the captain’s armband, that made me think two, three, or four times before reacting.”
Waston said he found out he was going to be captain in Portland during the preseason.
Initially, he thought it might just be for one game. Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson had rotated the armband up until that point and Waston figured that might continue.
“In my mind, I was thinking maybe I’m a part of that group,” he said. “When I found out, I was surprised to be honest. I didn’t expect that. I just took it and embraced it. I’m very proud. I was just thinking that I have to be disciplined and be an example.”
Waston was an absolute force this past season – at both ends of the park. The imposing 6-foot-5 centre back was among the league leaders in a number of defensive categories, including headed clearances (first), total clearances (second), and blocks (fourth).
The 2017 Whitecaps FC BMO Player of the Year and MLS Defender of the Year finalist also contributed offensively with four goals, the second highest total among all defenders, and one assist during the regular season, and an additional goal and assist in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
And that’s just at the club level.
Waston was a regular fixture for the Costa Rican national team in 2017, appearing in six World Cup qualifiers and a total of nine matches. He found the back of the net twice in World Cup qualifying, including the dramatic extra time goal that booked Costa Rica’s ticket to Russia.
His reaction to that goal? Pure emotion.