Whitecaps FC midfielder Matt Watson

'Caps Watson relishes debut after long road to top flight

Players take all sorts of roads to Major League Soccer, and Matt Watson’s journey to a full debut for Vancouver Whitecaps FC is as interesting as any.

After starting off with English club Wolverhampton Wanderers, the Redditch, England, native opted to ply his trade in North America at the college level, as opposed to pursuing other options in soccer’s spawning ground.

Watson, 27, reached his goal on this continent last weekend in Vancouver’s 1-0 victory against Chivas USA by playing his first 90 minutes after years spent in the lower tiers of North America’s football pyramid, even playing in the Major Indoor Soccer League to pay the bills during the outdoor off-season.

“I was really excited,” Watson told MLSsoccer.com when asked to describe his first full MLS game. “It was good to get it under my belt. I was a bit nervous, but hopefully, there’s a lot more to come.”

Still, the midfielder acknowledges that if he’s to make starts a regular occurrence at this level, the development of his game needs to continue.

“[I need to improve] my technical stuff,” Watson said. “I can keep up with the pace of the game, the physicality of the game. But my technical stuff in small spaces – passing, shooting – I want to score more goals. I’ve never been a good goalscorer for an attacking midfielder.”

Watson, who also acknowledged he needs to improve his vision and anticipation, was asked to play a more conservative role, as he replaced defensive midfielder Gershon Koffie against Chivas USA - although he found it difficult at times to hold himself back from joining the attack.

“I was instructed to play more defensively, so that’s what I tried to do,” Watson said. “But I’m so used to getting forward and trying to make runs in behind, I kind of got carried away at times, forgetting that I’m supposed to be sitting and just made forward runs, meaning I had to make a lot of runs back, which tired me out pretty quickly.

“I pride myself on getting forward and trying to score goals. I try and sit when [head coach Martin Rennie] tells me, but it’s hard for me to not try and get forward and have the fun, score the goals.”

Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.