Monday, September 26, 2011

One on One with Jamie Watson

I remember first watching Jamie Watson play for Real Salt Lake back in 2005. Back then RSL was a dismal side with little direction. You could almost say it’s fitting that Watson began his professional career there. For two years Jamie battled for playing time and failed to find his groove. It’s perfectly understandable; Watson entered the league as a young, unproven player. That youth though gave way to maturity and determination.

With a frustrating start to his professional career, Watson stepped back, adjusted his habits and took the humbling steps necessary to develop his game. Now, he’s become a more mature, positive and well rounded man. So too is he a more well rounded player.

He’s coming off winning the USL Pro Championship with Orlando City, a team in which he was an integral part. Read on to learn more about Watson’s road to success which even saw him living on a couch playing in the PDL. It’s an impressive story.

MLS Reserves: Can you start off by talking about how you ended up in Orlando City and what the season was like for you? 


Jamie Watson: “I was under contract after the end of 2010 with the Austin Aztex and even though a few teams made offseason offers to buy me, the club retained my services and brought me with them to Orlando. I couldn’t have been more excited to come here and when the season started you could kind of feel that we had something special here. Adrian was very clear from day one that our goal was to win the regular season and then go on and win the championship. It was an amazing accomplishment to achieve both of those goals in our first year here… one that the club and the city should be very proud of.”

MLS Reserves: How did if feel to win the season in such dramatic fashion?

Jamie Watson: “The final was the most exciting game I’ve been apart of in 7 years as a pro. It had all the drama you needed for a final, red cards, late goal, late equalizer, drama in the 2nd stoppage time, and then win 3-2 in penalty kicks. I went from being so sure we were going to win, to being so sure we were going to lose, to not even knowing what was going to happen. When we won I couldn’t sprint to the group fast enough or yell loud enough out of sheer joy. One of the best sporting moments I’ve ever experienced or felt and a feeling I’ll never forget as long as I live.”

MLS Reserves: You saw significant playing time with Orlando City. How important is that time to you development as a player?

Jamie Watson: “I experienced a great amount of success at a young age with the youth national teams, all the way up to the U-23s, and in college. I was playing so well at a young age but when I struggled to get minutes in MLS it kept me from really peaking at that young age. I can’t stress enough how important it is for a young player in MLS to get playing time.”

“I wasn’t able to find consistent playing time at a young age in MLS so it stalled my development I feel. It wasn’t until I left and got a chance to be an important part of the team and play 90 minutes week in and week out with Austin and then Wilmington and then Orlando City that
I really started to come into my own as a player.”

“I’m grateful for my time in MLS as a Generation Adidas player, I just learned more after I left... Maybe a loan is what I needed, maybe a trade… I’m not sure looking back on it. Either way, when I started getting significant playing time, it was a nice feeling to be needed by a team. It actually mattered if I performed well at the weekend and to be a key player to your team is a very good feeling.”

“I know now with the experience I’ve gained that when I move back up, I’ll make a name for myself as an important part of whatever team I end up on.”

Jamie Watson helped lead Orlando City to the USL Pro Championship

MLS Reserves: You played of the University of North Carolina for two years, then left to sign a Generation Adidas contract with MLS; are you still pleased with that decision? I'm told you're using that GA money now. What are you focusing on and where at?

Jamie Watson: “I’m the type of person that never regrets something I’ve done. I’m glad I left early and I enjoyed my time immensely in Salt Lake. It was a great part of my life and I’m grateful for it. Would I change a few things in hindsight, probably yeah, but everything happens for a reason.”

“As for now, I’m using this offseason to focus on school and where I’m going to play next season. I enrolled in a college here in Orlando and am a full time student this semester at Daytona State College. It’s not UNC, but it’ll do. I think this is a part of the growing up I’ve done since I first turned pro and making the decision to go back to school is one I’m proud of. This is part of the process of accomplishing my goal of getting a degree”

MLS Reserves: After entering the league and playing with Real Salt Lake, what has it been like to do move to lower tier soccer and be so successful?
Jamie Watson: “It’s been nice to accomplish a few team and personal goals since I’ve dropped down from MLS, but without the lessons I learned during my time in MLS, I wouldn’t be where I’m at now both professionally and as a person. For me, the biggest growth has been as a person.”

“I came in very immature and naive to a lot of things, on the field and off. It’s humbling to admit, but I’m wise enough now to see it and admit it. When I went from a Generation Adidas contract to sleeping on a couch playing for a PDL team, you have no choice but to realize and acknowledge that a change was needed.”

“It took a lot of looking in the mirror to figure out where a few things went off track, but I’m proud I was able to change a few things about myself. I really grew up and although it took hitting rock bottom as a professional, and I lost a lot of things, but it was also the best thing that ever happened to me. You can’t appreciate the good without the bad and I learned that the hard way, but couldn’t be more grateful for it. Now I’m focusing on doing the things I used to do that got me into the MLS initially, and will never lose that focus again. Now I’m always trying to stay humble and stay hungry.”

MLS Reserves: Do you have ambitions of playing in MLS again?

Jamie Watson: “I do, and after 3 career years in a row, I feel I’m ready again. I’m grateful for my time in Orlando and love it here. Without the guidance of Adrian Heath, I wouldn’t be where I’m at now. Inchy is honestly one of the best coaches in the US, and I feel that Orlando is lucky to have him. It won’t be long before he’s a coach in MLS in my opinion. He’s a name American soccer fans will be hearing a lot of as a coach in the next few years and I’m lucky to have played under him. As for myself, I’ve grown as a player and person and am ready for this challenge if it presents itself. I’m doing everything I can this offseason to make sure I’m prepared for what’s next to come and any new exciting challenges.”

MLS Reserves: With your contract ending soon, are you fielding offers from other teams? Any idea where you're going?

Jamie Watson: “My agent, Eddie Rock, and I have talked to several teams in MLS and it’s nice to have several options. At 25, I feel like I’m just hitting my stride and am playing my best football I have in my career. I am ready to really show that with whatever team I end up on next year.”

MLS Reserves: Watching you play, you seem to really be coming into your own and enjoying the match. Is this true?

Jamie Watson: “I think being a little older and having so much experience for a 25 year old and a 7 year pro, I think I know so many valuable things that you can only learn by going through. As a player, I’m at a point where I understand what it takes off the field to be a good pro. From eating right, to gym work, to making sure I do whatever is necessary to prepare myself to succeed. On the field, there aren’t a lot of things I haven’t seen or gone through. I’m more focused now than I have ever been and you’re right, I’m enjoying playing more than ever!”

MLS Reserves: For fans, what do you like to do in your free time? Hobbies, time off the field... what is Jamie Watson like away from soccer?

Jamie Watson: “Haha, I hate to tell you this, but I’m pretty normal off the field. I like to cook a lot, I Facebook just like everyone else, and i tweet just like everyone else. Actually I probably tweet a little more than others! I enjoy interacting with fans and it’s a cool way to connect with everyone.”

“I guess when I’m with the guys I like to joke around a lot. I’m always the team jokester and wanna make sure everyone is laughing and happy and upbeat. At the end of the day we’re playing soccer. The same game we played on Saturday mornings at 8am when our moms brought us orange slices at halftime. We’re all very lucky to get to do this for a living and I’m very grateful and appreciative of that. Ive gotten more and more into working out the past few years so running and swimming are things I like to do to stay fit, especially in the off-season.”

Watson’s story is an amazing one and it isn’t over. As he looks to the future, he knows soccer will be a part of it, but not the whole thing. For a player to have faced such trials and maintain his positive attitude, it really speaks to his character. 

After the up and down nature of his career, Watson remains positive. After leading Orlando City to the USL Championship, it's easy to see why. His talent and maturity have made him a more complete professional. Jamie Watson is certainly a player to keep an eye on.

6 comments:

  1. What a great player Jaime is, he surely was integral in our championship season and would really look forward to him continuing to grow here in Orlando as we look to become a part of the MLS, but will continue to wish him the best of luck wherever his journey takes him.

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  2. I remember him playing really well in a few FC Dallas reserve games and never understood the need to let someone who was so obviously talented go.

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  3. Wait...he was born in 1986. If he entered MLS in 2005, how was he legally able to drink? And what does that have to do with anything?

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  4. always nice hear a positive story on a player who wasn't successful in MLS, but is very close to coming back after paying his dues. Also nice to see a story about a player that is not is MLS or part of the RailHawks.

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  5. Finally got a chance to read this just now, and tweeted it out. Nice work as always, Luke.

    By the way, he's trialing with Montreal today. Got my fingers crossed for the kid.

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  6. This guy is amazing!! His passion for the sport and commitment to his fans is unparalleled. I wish him the best in all his future endeavors.

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