BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Chicago Fire rookie defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe is well aware that it takes work to earn success. Although his play has come under scrutiny during the Fire's recent participation in SuperLiga, the player is undeterred.
Born to an American mother and a Ghanaian father in Southern California, soccer has always been a part of Watson-Siriboe's life.
A member of the Pateadores Soccer Club, an elite youth team, he drew offers from several Division I schools, including a couple in California. But at the urging of his mother, he spurned the local interest to play at the University of Connecticut.
The move to UConn took Watson-Siriboe outside of his comfort zone and forced him to mature – something he said he hadn’t done much of while in high school.
“I did it the hard way, messing around in high school, barely getting into college,” Watson-Siriboe said. “[Going to UConn] forced me to mature. Being on my own, having to find my own study habits, being disciplined when training, always making sure you have to do that extra bit.”
Watson-Siriboe didn’t play much his first year at UConn, but he cracked the starting XI in his sophomore season and didn’t look back. He became a standout All-American for the Huskies and earned an invite to the MLS Player Combine, where he performed well enough to be selected 26th overall by the Chicago Fire in January’s SuperDraft.
“The jump [from college to MLS] was difficult,” he said. “I think it’s more the mental aspect, making sure you’re thinking quicker. Your touches also have to be very good, so making that transition to thinking faster, playing quicker, having a very good first touch, it’s difficult.”
And Watson-Siriboe wasn’t given a whole lot of time to adjust. An injury to Wilman Conde forced him into the starting lineup in the team’s second match of the season – on April 3 at Colorado. Despite a solid performance, Watson-Siriboe didn’t get another taste of competitive action until three months later on July 3 at Columbus, when he came on for an injured Dasan Robinson in the 84th minute.
Watson-Siriboe started the Fire’s next game – a 1-0 home loss to Real Salt Lake – alongside C.J. Brown. He performed well enough against the defending champs to earn a start for the kickoff of SuperLiga 2010.
But SuperLiga didn’t go so well. The Fire lost the first match 5-1 to Morelia, with Watson-Siriboe taking the blame for two goals. Then came the SuperLiga match against New England. Although he had a pretty good game as a starter, he was burned by a 77th minute mistake on which he was dispossessed after taking a few too many touches.
It exposed the rookie's decision making and he found himself on the bench in the SuperLiga finale against UNAM Pumas.
“I feel like it’s still a learning process,” Watson-Siriboe said. “You know it’s my first year. I’m going to make mistakes.”
At 6-feet-3, 196 pounds, the Fire defender certainly has all the size necessary to succeed in the middle of a back four. He’s also got the speed, the aggressiveness and the foot skills.
“I think the physical part of him is there,” said veteran Brown. “He’s got the size, he’s got the strength, he’s quality on his feet, and he has confidence. To have that at such a young age is very good.”
What’s missing for the 23-year-old is the mental side of the game. As the Morelia match showed, he still has to learn to be in the right spots, read the game quicker and adjust to the tendencies of his opponents. More importantly, he needs to get more comfortable on the field.
“I don’t think I’m at the point that I’m not still nervous before games,” he said. “When I’m able to reach that comfort level, I think the sky’s the limit.”