Real Salt Lake's newest player not afraid
Sandy • You have to understand that, prior to his start at centerback Wednesday against Seattle, Kwame Watson-Siriboe hadn't played top-flight American soccer since 2010.
Also, the 25-year-old, acquired in a trade from Chicago, had been with Real Salt Lake only a week. He hadn't received all the training that coach Jason Kreis believed his new defender needed.
So, Watson-Siriboe's reaction upon learning of his upcoming start?
"He was ready," Kreis said. "Absolutely zero hesitation in him. He didn't appear nervous before the game. I got nervous before games even after I played 300 of them."
Despite the lack of training, and probably not knowing every name of his new teammates, Watson-Siriboe walked on the Rio Tinto Stadium field against Seattle and helped RSL blank the Sounders. If needed, Watson-Siriboe will be ready for Saturday's 7 p.m. game against visiting Portland.
Sure, Watson-Siriboe was nervous, but he was more excited. Long ago, he learned fear is a useless emotion.
"My grandfather grew up in Pittsburgh in the time of racism and put himself through dental school," Watson-Siriboe said. "My dad came here at age 18 from Ghana. They instilled hard work â¦ and there is nothing to be afraid of."
Right now, RSL management believes its athletic new young player will eventually give the team quality depth, important as CONCACAF and MLS games begin to stack up.
Actually, should Watson-Siriboe, the 26th player taken in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft out of the University of Connecticut, embrace his potential, RSL may have gotten a steal. RSL gave up a fourth-round pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft.
The native of Chino Hills, Calif., not only looks he's 6-foot-3, 195 pounds and moves like a centerback, he also comes with an agreeable paycheck, something even more important for bargain-minded RSL. Watson-Siriboe reportedly made $48,000 with the Fire.
"As the core gets older, we hope to have talent in the pipeline," RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey said. "It was a great acquisition price and low risk for what we paid. We've always had three good centerbacks. It feels like we added a fourth in Kwame."
Lagerwey had an inside source on Watson-Siriboe. RSL assistant coach C.J. Brown played with Watson-Siriboe at Chicago and developed a mentor relationship.
Watson-Siriboe good-naturedly calls Brown a second father. Brown believes it is up to the older players to help the newcomers get better.
"Mentally he wants it," Brown said. "He was in a situation that wasn't good for him. He just got in here and hopefully will blend in with us. This might be his chance for a fresh start."
In Chicago, Watson-Siriboe was stuck on a treadmill of predictable results. Reduced playing time affected his confidence, which affected his ability, which reduced his playing time.
Last season, Chicago put Watson-Siriboe on loan with FC Tampa Bay of the North American Soccer League. Instead of sulking, Watson-Siriboe worked harder.
"Players need to realize it's mental now," Watson-Siriboe said. "Everybody's going to be physically gifted. That's what makes you come in, day in and day out, and give 100 percent; what makes you stay after [practice] to do 15 minutes extra work that will make you the next [Jamison] Olave and [Javier] Morales."
Right now, Kreis and company would like nothing better than for Watson-Siriboe to embrace his new environment and become that solid fourth centerback who can step in, as he did against Seattle when Olave was injured, and provide quality minutes. Anything after that is icing on the cake.
"I'm very excited," Watson-Siriboe said. "This is a great team, a great organization that always wants to be the best team. [Kreis] told me, 'Come in with confidence, don't be scared.' I took that to heart."
Portland Timbers vs. Real Salt Lake
P Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, 7 p.m.
TV • CW30 Radio • 700 AM, 1600 AM, 102.3 FM
Records • Timbers 5-7-4, RSL 10-6-3
All-time series • Tied 1-1-1
Last meeting • RSL, 3-2 (March 31)
About the Timbers • With a 2-1 win against San Jose on Tuesday, Portland extended its undefeated streak at home to six games. â¦ The Timbers are in a tie for seventh place in the Western Conference. â¦ On Thursday, the Timbers acquired fullback Kosuke Kimura from the Colorado Rapids for allocation money and an international roster spot.
About the RSL • Defenders Kenny Mansally, waived by the New England Revolution, and Kwame Watson-Siribie, acquired in a trade with Chicago, made their RSL debut in the 0-0 result against Seattle on Wednesday. â¦ Centerback Jamison Olave, who missed his third consecutive match Wednesday after suffering a calf strain June 20, is listed as probable. â¦ With Wednesday's draw, RSL, second in the Western Conference, extended its winless streak extended to four matches.
Kwame Watson-Siriboe file
• Chicago Fire drafted Watson-Siriboe as the 26th player taken in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft.
• At Connecticut, Watson-Siriboe was named the 2009 Big East Co-Defender of the Year.
• Watson-Siriboe was acquired in a trade with Chicago. RSL sent the Fire a fourth-round pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft.
• Watson-Siriboe was a member of the U.S. Under-18 National Team in 2004.