Talk about making the most of an opportunity. RSL's Jamie Watson got his chance to shine in Wednesday night's 3-2 come-from-behind win over the Chilean champions Universidad Catolica.
With seven allowable substitutions for the exhibition match, he was the seventh player to enter. Inserted in the 71st minute, Real's second pick in the MLS SuperDraft took only two minutes to make a huge impact. Watson took a pass from Chris Brown and laid it off to a charging Kenny Cutler, who fired a shot by the keeper to end Real's 394-minute scoring drought.
"Jamie is someone with a very bright future," said Real coach John Ellinger. "He obviously brings a lot of energy."
In the 77th minute, Watson again made his presence felt. He took a ball up the left wing and played the defender to perfection by drawing a penalty kick that Dipsy Selolwane buried to tie the score.
"I knew he was going to slide in, so I just got in front of him so he would slide into me, and he did," said Watson.
As a rookie, and playing behind players such as Jason Kreis and Clint Mathis, Watson knows that he will have limited opportunities, and how important it is to make the most of them.
"You always want to make the coaches' jobs harder," he said. "It makes their jobs harder if you can come in and produce, and I was able to come in a produce tonight. Hopefully it will put me in the coaches' good graces."
Watson made the coaches' choices even more difficult for upcoming games when he finished his outstanding 20 minutes of play by setting up the game-winning goal. In the 88th minute, he burst down the left wing and hit a perfect centering pass that found the head of Nelson Akwari.
Ellinger has said all season that Watson could have this type of performance, even if he still makes rookie mistakes. "Again he was on the sideline screaming at the ref (trying to get his attention so that he could substitute)," Ellinger said. "We had to remind him that it doesn't work that way here."
One can not fault Watson's enthusiasm, especially when it seems that is exactly what seemed to be lacking for the first 45 minutes of the game.
"He just wants to be in there," said Ellinger. "He proved that he belongs in the league tonight."
He may be in the league, but as an 18-year-old rookie, Watson knows his role on the squad.
"I may not have the same windows of opportunity as others," he said. "I know that the chances that I do get I need to make the most of it . . . I always want to make the boss feel happy."