Frequent contributor Jon Marthaler has written about virtually every sport in the Twin Cities, and fills in on Saturdays for the RandBall blog on StarTribune.com. He'll cover the professional soccer scene in the Twin Cities, whether at the Metrodome or at the National Sports Center.
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Minnesota United is bringing back a familiar face. Midfielder Jamie Watson, who played for the club in late 2012, will be returning to Minnesota for the 2014 season.
Watson, who was on loan from Orlando City for his eight-game stretch in Minnesota, has long been a figure of fun to Minnesota's die-hard fans. The Dark Clouds have for years taunted any opposing player deemed a bit too unsteady on his feat with the song, "You dive like Jamie Watson!", a reference to several of Watson's previous wobbly experiences against Minnesota.
The Dark Clouds always hang up flags at the back of the stands, one for the nationality of each non-American player on the roster; when Watson signed, they got hold of the nautical flag for "diving" and hung it up among the rest. To his credit, Watson took the ribbing in the fun spirit it was intended; when he scored his only goal in Minnesota, he ran over to the fans, and celebrated by pretending to swan-dive into the turf.
"Their heads are going to explode when they have me and Pablo Campos in the same team," said Watson. "They're going to have to rewrite a bunch of chants and cheers."
The midfielder was excited to get back in front of Minnesota's fans - "They treated me so great after hating me for so many years," he said - and with the players that were still around in Minnesota from his last stint. "I got a couple of text messages when the week started [from players], and I kind of had to be a little coy about it because I didn’t want to count my chickens before they hatched," he said. "It was really cool that people reached out to tell me how excited they would be if it all worked out."
Watson scored ten goals in 20 appearances with Orlando City in USL Pro last year, and tallied 23 over his three seasons with the team, a span in which the team twice won the third-division championship.
Said the 27-year-old, "It was very special to me in Orlando, the connection that I had with the fans. I think Minnesota is one of the only places, because of the experience I had last time, that I would have been tempted to leave Orlando for."
According to Watson, the deal came together very quickly, and he was impressed with how respectful both sides were during the process. "It’s just kind of come about in the last week," he said. "A bit unexpected, to be honest. Everything just kind of fell into place after talking to Manny [Lagos] and Nick Rogers, and working with my agent Eddie Rock, who’s from Minnesota. I talked to people in Orlando and they kind of told me where their plans were headed. I realized that Minnesota was really going out of their way to make it happen."
Said Watson, "I’m sad to be leaving Orlando because I did enjoy my time here. At the same time, coming to Minnesota, I’m very very excited about it. I’ve played there before and I know how special it is, and it’s only gotten stronger with the new ownership that’s come in."
In his last stint with Minnesota, Watson played mostly on the left-hand side of midfield, trying to create more by making runs into areas and less by crossing the ball. It remains to be seen whether the team will deploy him in a similar wide role, or will perhaps move him more centrally, perhaps as an attacking central midfielder or even as a second striker.
He also gave some of the best interview answers I've heard, including one explanation of the team's attacking strategy against Puerto Rico that I recall went on for a good three and a half minutes, and ended with him saying, "So, uh, yeah. Transcribe that, I guess."
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