VANCOUVER, BC – Put yourself in Kendall Waston’s shoes for a second.
They’re size 13, so you could probably fit.
Waston, born in San Jose, Costa Rica, grew up in a region with “a lot of drugs and a lot of difficulties.” His parents got divorced when he was a young kid.
When he was in the fourth grade, his mother moved to the U.S. to make more money and send it back home for the family. At one point, they went nine years without seeing each other.
And his father was rarely around because he worked on a cruise ship.
It wasn’t easy for his parents – and it certainly wasn’t easy for Waston. But it’s part of what made him the person he is today.
“Now that I’m a father and a husband, I want to change a lot of things that I didn’t have,” Waston told whitecapsfc.com. “I never had a close father … I don’t blame him. I know they were trying to do what was best for me. But on the other side, the emotions and love and affection, it was missing. It was tough. That’s why I am trying to be a different dad.”
For Waston, family is everything. A quick glance at his social media channels will show you as much. Waston is a proud husband and father to a one-and-a-half year-old boy named Keysaack.
He’ll do anything for them.
It’s part of the reason why he left Costa Rica, the only country he had ever lived in, for Vancouver when the ‘Caps came calling last year.
“The first thing he said is that he wants to play and support his family,” Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson told whitecapsfc.com of his first conversation with Waston. “It’s important that, with level-headed players on your squad, that they realize what the most important things in life are and that’s what struck me about him.”
That, and his 6-foot-5, 215-pound frame, of course.
Since joining the club midway through 2014, Waston has quickly established himself as one of Major League Soccer’s top defenders and on Friday Whitecaps FC announced that the club has re-signed him to a multi-year contract extension.
For the ‘Caps, this was a no-brainer.
No team has recorded more clean sheets than Vancouver over the last two seasons – Waston’s commanding presence in the box has been a big part of that.
Kendall being Kendall: The big man's biggest plays
This year, he was voted as the Whitecaps FC BMO Player of the Year. He also finished second in voting for the MLS Defender of the Year.
“His passion, physical presence, and ability to come up big in crucial situations have been instrumental to our success,” said Robinson, who referred to Waston as “arguably the best centre back” in MLS. “He's a leader on the pitch and in the locker room.”
Deybi Flores can attest to that.
When Flores, then 18, joined Whitecaps FC at the end of March, Waston took it upon himself to show the Honduran the ropes. Not only did Waston and his wife have Flores over for dinner on numerous occasions, they also drove him around and helped him with things like online banking, WhatsApp, etc.
“It’s been great having people like that looking out for me,” Flores told whitecapsfc.com.
Jordan Smith sang a similar tune when he joined the ‘Caps from Costa Rica later in the year.
Then there’s the fact that Waston invited Whitecaps FC midfielder Gershon Koffie into his family’s home back in Costa Rica during the team’s bye week in June.
“They accepted me like a son,” Koffie said. “That’s what this team is about.”
And that’s what Waston is about.
“He’s totally different than he is on the field,” said Priscila, Waston’s wife. “He’s not aggressive. He’s not a rude guy. He’s really sweet, humble, and gentle.”
Waston and Priscila have both truly embraced this club – and city.
Priscila is “very close” with a lot of the other wives. They go shopping together. They go out for dinners together. And when the team is on the road, they often have sleepovers and watch the games together.
“They are my family here,” Priscilla said.
And the ‘Caps are Waston’s.
“For sure, I feel like this is my family,” he said. “I really got to love this club very quickly.”
The feeling is mutual.
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