How many training sessions? Matt Watson impresses in his Fire debut

Despite only a handful of training sessions, Matt Watson proving he belongs in first 11

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Matt Watson hasn’t exactly been a household name in MLS circles, so you might be forgiven if you asked, “Who?” when the team announced his acquisition from Vancouver two weeks ago.

The 29-year-old Englishman, who started his professional career in the U.S. lower leagues, made sure all Fire supporters knew who he was last Sunday as he toughed out 90 minutes in central midfield during the team’s 1-1 draw at Portland. 

“I thought it was alright,” Watson told Chicago-Fire.com this week. “I was a little bit disappointed not to get the win, I thought we played well as a team but any time you can get a point at Portland, it’s not a result to hang on your head at.”

The former Whitecaps midfielder’s performance was all the more impressive when you consider he’d only trained three days with the team prior to joining Jeff Larentowicz and Alex in the heart of the Fire midfield.

Fire head coach Frank Yallop said he had little reservations about slotting the newest member of his team straight into the starting 11 for the match.

“I’ve known Matt for many years now in Vancouver and USL,” said Yallop. “He’s a solid MLS player -- never going to do anything fancy but he puts in the work. It was a question of who was best for the job that day and Matt fit the bill.”

While Watson may not do anything fancy, he nearly took the score to 2-0 in the 54th minute of Sunday's match when he collected a ball from Harry Shipp and blasted an effort from distance that Timbers 'keeper Donovan Ricketts had to parry over the bar. 

Yallop said he was overall impressed with how Watson, Larentowicz and Alex controlled the midfield against a daunting middle three of Diego Chara, Will Johnson and Diego Valeri.

“Between Jeff, Matt and Alex they did a great job on one of the best central midfield trios in the league. I thought for the first 60 minutes they dominated them, which was good.”

Watson’s insertion into the 11 might have been made easier when knowing that Mike Magee, who likely would have slotted into the more attacking midfield role, wouldn’t play in the match.

With Magee seemingly set to make his 2014 debut Sunday, Watson could go to the bench but the Fire newbie seems the prototypical utility man that can slot into different positions when needed. With Alex, Dilly Duka and Gonzalo Segares all fighting injuries heading into Sunday, the prospect of Watson staying in the 11 could be high.

If he does, he’ll be ready to make his Fire home debut against the defending Supporters Shield champion, New York Red Bulls.

“I’m excited at potentially getting to play here at home for the first time against New York,” he said. “They’re held up as one of the top teams in the league and they’ve not started well. It’s our home opener, and energy from our side will be key.

We took an important step in Portland but we need to earn three points on Sunday.”