No dazzle to his game, but Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Matt Watson makes his mark

Matt Watson isn’t going to dazzle many with fancy footwork or glamorous cross-field passes, but the midfielder’s effort level and athleticism in the Vancouver Whitecaps’ 1-0 win over D.C. United on Saturday stood out for his teammates and coaches.

“That’s what Matty does,” Nigel Reo-Coker told Vancouver radio station TEAM 1410 following the match in reference to Watson’s running. “That’s the foundation of Matty Watson, that’s what he’s about and he showed it today.

“He plays with his heart on his sleeve and he had a great game for us.”

OPTA Chalkboard: Vancouver dig in, make the goal stand vs. D.C.

Those sentiments were echoed by Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie, who said he singled Watson out for his performance in the dressing room post-match.

Indeed, in addition to doing all the dirty work and running in midfield, Watson earned the penalty that would eventually win Vancouver the match – touching a ball away from the on-rushing Bill Hamid in the D.C. goal.

Hamid eventually clattered him, forcing referee Matthew Foerster to point to the spot.

“I don’t know if he’s been able to crawl up the stairs yet or not, but his work rate and work ethic were absolutely fantastic,” Rennie said of Watson. “He set the tone for the team because of that and I’m really proud of the effort that he put in.

“And it would be interesting to see just how far he ran in that game because it was non-stop. He was the one who got the penalty kick and was everywhere for us, so I was really pleased with that.”

FULL LINEUPS AND BOXSCORE

The penalty Watson won could be viewed as controversial – Hamid appeared to touch the ball before clattering the Englishman – but either way, the 28-year-old was in no mood to complain.

“I got a little bit of a touch but the goalkeeper also got a touch on it,” Watson said. “I’m going to have to watch it again but he definitely got a piece of the ball and definitely went through me as well, so I guess it’s a PK. He took out my feet and that’s what the referee called the penalty for, and there’s nothing I could really do. But hey, obviously I’m happy with the PK and Camilo put it away.”

Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.