VANCOUVER, BC – Tristan Blackmon has always been a pretty chill guy.
Growing up in Las Vegas, going to school at California’s University of the Pacific, and then starting his pro career nearby in Los Angeles has played a big part in his West Coast vibe.
But the 26-year-old has also learned over the years that even the most relaxed guys have to deal with adversity.
Player Spotlights: Tristan Blackmon - "Things that you experience in life also humble you"
“I think it’s kind of been a stigma around me for a long time actually, just because I’ve been so chill, nonchalant.”
While many people gravitate to his demeanor, being known as the “chill” guy during his career hasn’t always been as simple as it sounds.
“I’ve definitely gotten some, I wouldn't say hate, but people definitely question me sometimes just because they may feel that I'm not as motivated as other guys because I'm not yelling all the time or running around as fast as I possibly can. Not that it’s been easy for me, because by no means has it been. I've worked really hard to get here but I've always just kind of had that chill lax vibe.”
The new guy
Being easy going doesn’t necessarily mean being completely care free.
Any young athlete starting their professional career is going to have stresses to deal with, and it was no different for Blackmon when he got drafted by LAFC in 2018.
“I think early on in my career when I went to LA, [I was] obviously a new guy, got drafted from college, I didn't know what to expect coming into the league.”
But as he always does, Blackmon took each step in stride and learned from those around him – teammates at the time like Walker Zimmerman, Tyler Miller, Adama Diomande, and Aaron Kovar.
“I had a lot of guys around me who always made sure that I was even keel. There's a lot of highs and lows in sports in general, and especially in MLS. They always tried to keep me in the right headspace for sure as a rookie.”
The new guy part II
Four years into his career and Blackmon had established himself in the league.
64 appearances and 46 starts in the MLS regular season. A Supporters Shield, Western Conference Final, and Concacaf Champions League Final.
But in pro sports change his inevitable, and Blackmon’s mentality would be tested again.
Charlotte FC was set to kick off their first MLS season in 2022, so on December 14 of 2021 the MLS Expansion Draft took place.
With their fourth pick, Charlotte selected Blackmon from LAFC.
It looked like he may be moving east.
“Obviously there's a lot going on in that time period. No real sense of where I was going to end up, which is kind of nerve wracking a little bit just because I'd been in one place for so long.”
A short time after the expansion draft, a trade was announced. He had been acquired by the ‘Caps and now heading to Vancouver.
“It was a crazy time for sure last December. I’m definitely looking forward to more security this year and I'll be able to relax a bit more.”
A new team meant meeting new teammates, and settling himself in a new city. But his integration was relatively seamless.
“It was a great group of guys,” remembers Blackmon. “I think coming in that made it really easy for me to transition. I wasn’t like pushed to the side or anything, [I was] definitely welcomed by everybody at the club.”
His early season performances saw him signed to a contract extension with Whitecaps FC, and included a goal against his former club.
However, the first half of the season also presented challenges. A tough start for the team over the first eight matches, and a knee injury that kept him out for nearly two months.
“It was tough in the beginning, for sure. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't. But I always had that optimism that look, it's early, we can turn it around. Obviously it got to a point where it was a little bit more difficult than it should have been. We definitely should have done better early on to prepare ourselves for that second half of the year.”
Highs and lows are what Blackmon is ready for.
The highest of those highs came on July 26, something he will always remember – hitting the winning penalty in the Canadian Championship final over a Toronto FC team led by his former LAFC coach Bob Bradley.
It was a moment where his relaxed nature shined it’s brightest.
“I knew they missed and I was just like, let me get up to take five because I knew I was going to make it. I'm going to get the opportunity to win, and especially against people I know on the other side. So there was a lot on the line not just for us, but for me personally. I think it was a big moment. It was incredible.”
While winning a trophy brought reason for celebration, missing the playoffs on the final day brought time for reflection.
And for Blackmon, keeping an even keel to properly evaluate what’s happened and to prepare for what’s to come next is something that he does best.
“I think the main thing is trying to take the positives, learn from the things we need to work on. I've always been pretty introspective, so I think I'm my biggest critic. But we also have to recognize that we did some good things as well. As a team, what can you do in the offseason to prepare yourself for the preseason to hit the ground running.”