Watson shows value with versatility

When Matt Watson was traded to Chicago in exchange for an international roster spot from Vancouver few Fire supporters knew who he was. The Englishman, a listed midfielder who made 36 appearances over two seasons for Vancouver, came into Chicago on March 5th, 4 days before the start of the 2014 campaign.

After dropping their season opener to Chivas USA 3-2 in Carson, Frank Yallop employed Watson in central midfield alongside team captain Jeff Larentowicz. The positional result was a success, as the club battled to a 1-1 draw with the offensive-minded Timbers. With Lovel Palmer handed down a two game suspension by the MLS Disciplinary Committee, Yallop would again call on Watson in week three, this time at right back. The result was equally successful, despite another draw, as Watson stood out with a solid performance on the backline.

"It felt a bit uncomfortable at times (at right back). I think I'm just trying to feel the position out and work out what works for me, and obviously communicate with the guys about what they're supposed to do," said Watson after the match. "I haven't got it naturally out there yet, so there's a lot of thinking out there for me. I think the more I'm back there the more comfortable I'll be."

Some of those nerves were apparent early in the match on Sunday, as Watson seemed to make adjustments as the game progressed. Once he got his feet under him and made those early adjustments, he played well as a stand-in for Lovel Palmer and garnered the praise of Yallop as well. "Maybe some early moments, a little bit he had to get used to that position," said Yallop after the game on Sunday, "but once he did, you saw he sticks to his task, and he does all the things I ask of him. He’s slotted in well with the injury situation we've had, the suspension as well, so, I thought he played well.”

The importance of Watson's play against New York and Portland should be lost on no one, especially when one recalls the depth issues that plagued Chicago in recent seasons. It's also important to remember that he was involved in less than two weeks of training with the team before getting his first start. That was a fact also not lost on Yallop, who was familiar with Watson and knew exactly what qualities he would bring to Chicago. “I’ve known Matt for a number of years....but I just like those type of players that can slot in anywhere; I kind of get what I want out of the player, and he does that, he gives you 100% at any position he plays."

"I think the first week is always tricky. Just coming in I didn't know anyone, so you just try to make friends and try to feel out where you fit in amongst the guys. They've obviously welcomed me in and made it very easy for me socially here," he told Fire Confidential.

"I think we can definitely still be better on the ball, you know, we play direct at times. I think a little too much and it's hard work for the strikers battling for balls. I think we almost invite pressure on ourselves sometimes by playing so direct. So I think we just need to relax, put our foot on the ball and keep it for a bit, and not just try to score goals as soon as we get the ball back," Watson said of the Fire's play through three games this season. "It's a whole team thing, not just individuals. I'm guilty of it myself, I played a lot of long balls (vs New York). It kind of gives them possession straight back, then wave after wave of attack is coming back at you. I think if we can take that extra time. If we get the ball, let's keep it for 5 or 6 passes before we try to pick off a pass to score a goal. That's one of the biggest things we have to work on."

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    When we first signed him, I looked at what people from Vancouver were saying about him. Most of them said that he won't be the most technically gifted player on the pitch at a given time, but that his work rate and dedication are among the highest they had in Vancouver. So far, I've seen that from him. Solid player, not flashy, but gets the job done. Never seems to stop running and always seems to just quietly do the right things. Good move by the Fire.

  • I haven't seen him play yet but I certainly like his comments and analysis of Fire play. Hope the rest of the team was listening.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Great idea but I have two concerns: (1) he's a Brit and MLS needs to expand its player search into the ethnic leagues. Looking for STARS in the college arena is a hopeless task -- work-man-like is as good as it gets. Can a Brit get past the "big, athletic" criteria? BTW - how's the English NT doing these days? (2) Can he speak Spanish? Bosnian? Portuguese?

  • In reply to shortpasses:

    I'll see if we can get him on a future podcast episode.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Great! Would appreciate it if you could askhim how he intends to address the "non-standard" options for player identification.(ethnic leagues and lower division teams) You can skip my snarky comments abut the English NT!!!!!

  • Sean Johnson has been called into USMNT camp for the friendly vs Mexico on April 2......

    http://www.chicago-fire.com/news/2014/03/sean-johnson-join-us-men%E2%80%99s-national-team-advance-usa-vs-mexico-match

    Possibly one last shot at making that World Cup roster?

  • Tim Cahill has escaped punishment for his foul on Magee in Sunday's game.

    http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/2014/03/26/mls-disciplinary-suspends-toronto-fcs-jackson-portland-timbers-donovan-ricke?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=News&utm_campaign=Unpaid

  • In reply to Jeff Krause:

    Makes absolutely no sense given the precedent set with Palmer's two game suspension for a much lesser offense IMO.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    if MLS was rated as countries were, it'd be listed dead last by these guys: http://www.transparency.org/

  • We have had some degree of success with utility players over the years, with Pause being the best of them over time. Watson's playing CM and then RB in consecutive weeks is what Pause has often done, including last year. We've also had Paladini and Videira who have filled the utility player role after coming up through the minor league ranks. Watson has been solid so far. Hope he keeps it up.

  • I know this is silly, but I'm declaring the change of my FC name from Drew to Tweaky, which is what I use at HTIOT. I've been Drew since Luis' Red Card blog, so I just wanted to say I'm not going anywhere, just a-changin' my name...

  • In reply to Tweaky:

    Welcome back Drew....err.....I mean welcome Tweaky.

  • In a random piece of news, I just noticed that Collins John is on the roster of the USL PRO Pittsburgh Riverhounds. According to Wikipedia, it looks like he has played all of 9 games since he was released from the Fire in November of 2010.

  • In reply to Fuegofan:

    The Riverhounds have also filed for bankruptcy protection.

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