VANCOUVER, B.C – The Whitecaps have been climbing the MLS Western Conference standings and have been on an outstanding streak in the month of June. The Caps have earned nine of twelve points this month in wins against New York, New England, and Chivas USA. Vancouver currently sits 5th in the Western Conference and the momentum they’ve been able to build all started with a 2-1 comeback victory against the New York Red Bulls in Harrison, New Jersey on June 1. One of the key players who hasn’t received enough props, and praise is the often overlooked Matt Watson.
The Redditch, England native, had found himself stapled to the bench for much of the Whitecaps first two months of the season. However, Watson has been able to earn his way into the Whitecaps starting lineup and has started the last 4 MLS games for Vancouver. The even keeled midfielder has yet to score his first career MLS goal… but that’s not why Martin Rennie brought over Watson from the Carolina Railhawks in 2011. Watson offers consistent play and durability at both ends of the pitch and that’s something the Whitecaps have needed when Kenny Miller, Camilo Sanvezzo, and Russell Teibert are primarily focused creating offense, and scoring goals.
Matt Watson doesn’t get too high, or to low when the team has struggled during the tough grind of an MLS season. He is a well-balanced player on and off the pitch and that’s exactly what the team needs. Watson has made key tackles, and terrific passes when he called upon. With Gershon Koffie injured, and missing from action Watson has stepped up and forced Martin Rennie to make tough lineup decisions when the Caps are finally fully healthy.
The Whitecaps most devout Vegan started his streak of play on June 1, against the New York Red Bulls playing against a football legend that he grew up watching on television back home in England every weekend. Watson had the opportunity to play against his childhood hero Thierry Henry.
Watson grew up supporting Arsenal, and at one point in his career he never imagined that he would be on the same pitch as Thierry Henry. Watson described what it was like to play against Henry.
“It was amazing just being on the same field, the same grass as him, it was an experience. It was amazing just to see him in the flesh right there. It was one of the greatest days of my life.”
The 28 year-old Watson was able to help keep Henry and the Red Bulls in check for much of the match and one key moment from the 1st half clearly helped Watson get his game going against New York.
“I tackled him (Thierry Henry) right at the start of the game, and got my game off to a good start. That made me happy and carried me for the rest of the game. That was probably the best moment for me, and obviously scoring the goals and winning.”
Following the match Watson was hoping to swap kits with Thierry Henry, however Whitecaps midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker had pre-arranged a transfer of shirts with the Frenchman before the match. Watson was not disappointed as he was still able to get his hands on signed Henry kit thanks to some help from current Whitecaps forward and former Red Bulls player Corey Hertzog. Following the match Watson exchanged a few words with Henry.
“After the game I told him he was my hero, and my favourite player of all time, and he said “Thank You”, it was enough for me.”
When it comes down to it football players, and athletes from all sports at one point or another grew up with posters on their walls, and jerseys with their favourite players names on the back. It’s not often that a player will climb his way up the ranks and reach an elite league like MLS. Matt Watson was able to play against his idol, win the match, and now he has a story that he will fondly be able to look back on with his family, and friends forever.