SANDY, Utah – When Real Salt Lake traded the Chicago Fire a fourth-round pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft for Kwame Watson-Siriboe, they surely didn't envision for him the role that he has ended up taking since his move west.
Certainly RSL assistant coach C.J. Brown – who pushed for the trade after playing with Watson-Siriboe while with the Fire in 2010 – saw talent and untapped potential in the 6-foot-3 UConn product. It would be tough to imagine, however, the coaches knew they would be relying on him to start and log heavy minutes down the stretch of the MLS season and during CONCACAF Champions League games.
But that is exactly where things stand with both Jámison Olave (left hamstring strain) and Chris Schuler (left foot bone stress response) out of action. It may not be the team's first choice, but that doesn't mean they don't believe in the third-year player.
"Ever since I got here, the coaching staff has backed me 100 percent and have put a lot of confidence in me to be fearless, to take the opportunities that are given," said Watson-Siriboe. "I think I am going to continue to work with C.J. after training, continue to watch film with him and continue to listen to all of the coaching staff."
Watson-Siriboe has played in six games, starting four, and he has left a good impression during his time on the pitch.
"He's been very strong," said coach Jason Kreis. "It hasn't been perfect efforts, but usually you don't see most guys play perfectly, so he's been very, very strong.
"There are still a few things tactically we can clean up, but his effort has been great. His number of tackles he's winning, his number of commitment challenges in the air, all those things have been really, really good."
While he does still has more to learn, Watson-Siriboe should continue to improve because of one of his best traits.
"First and foremost, I think it is how bad he seems to want it," said Kreis. "He's a really good kid with big aspirations to be a big player in this league. Without that, I don't think you can do it at this level, talent doesn't mean that much.
"On top of his desire, he is a big body, very, very good in the air with his air challenges, and he has pretty good feet as well for his size. He certainly has the tools to become an excellent center back in this league."
Watson-Siriboe agreed with his coach about putting in the work and having a strong desire. So as his time with the team grows, so, too, should his contributions.
"I think what makes great players great is their work ethic," he said. "They are willing to stay after, to put the 15 minutes in to continue to perfect their game no matter what level they are playing at. I think that is something I need to continue to work on is to stay hungry, to continue to work on my all-around game."