Is Rennie sticking his neck out with Matt Watson?

December 17, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Posted in Whitecaps Season 2011 | Leave a comment

When a new coach takes over at a soccer team, obviously he will want to surround himself with staff and players he can trust.  When Rennie took over he fired Colin Miller, a coach with a great deal of local knowledge of BC Soccer.  Miller was replaced with Paul Ritchie, Rennie’s assistant from the Carolina Railhawks.  I had expected Rennie would bring in some players from Carolina as well.  Now he has, signing Railhawks midfielder Matt Watson. In Watson, Rennie will have a player who is loyal to him, and one he knows and can trust.  Even if he does not play, he will work hard in training and do what Rennie tells him, keeping the other players honest.

Is Matt Watson a wise acquisition for the Whitecaps as a player?  He certainly has size, at six foot, and weight, at 180 pounds, which is what we need being a club with such a small roster.  He is English by birth but played in the US College level of soccer.  While this level produces great athletes who are fast and physical, it does not produce players who are especially technically gifted in soccer skill.

I have hoped the Whitecaps would pick up a gifted Central or South American playmaking midfielder.  These types of players have proven to be highly valuable in Major League Soccer: if you look at teams such as FC Dallas (David Ferreira), Real Salt Lake (Javier Morales) and Seattle Sounders (Alvaro Fernandez) you will find such players. Matt Watson does not fit this pedigree.  Professionally, He has only played in the lower divisions in the USL/NASL and in indoor soccer in the Major Indoor Soccer League.

What we can expect from Watson is a big, tough, fast guy who works hard.  We had a lot of these guys back when the Whitecaps were in the USL/NASL, and none of them are left on the roster because they simply did not have the technical skills necessary to play at the MLS level.  I fear, at the age of 26, that Watson does not have a lot of time to develop technically.  He will either sink or swim at the MLS level.  We already have a great holding defensive midfielder in Gershon Koffie, and the question still remains: who will make the plays we need from midfield to win games?

I feel that Watson’s signing will tell us a lot about Rennie’s coaching judgment.  If  Watson falls flat on his face, Rennie will look like a guy who does not know what he is doing.  Rennie is taking a risk, but then again, all successful people take risks.

As a supporter, I hope both Watson and Rennie succeed and put all of my doubts to rest.  Watson’s signing does not, however, fill the gap our squad has in terms of technical skill and creativity in the midfield.  For this we so far rely, to our peril, upon the moody, unfit and inconsistent Davide Chiumiento.

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