Manuel Veth –
The Major League Soccer All-Star game between the MLS All-Star Team and the London based club, Arsenal, featured two players from Costa Rica. Yet, while Arsenal’s striker Joel Campbell finally seems to have managed to stay with Arsenal’s first team last season—after spending the past five years on loan with five different clubs all over Europe—Vancouver Whitecaps’, Kendall Waston, is a relatively unknown quantity in Europe.
In Canada, however, where he plays for the MLS club, Vancouver Whitecaps, Waston has become a real rock for the Canadian club’s defence. At 196cm, Waston is an imposing figure, who often joins Vancouver’s offense for corners and free-kicks.
In fact, it was one of those very headers that sent Vancouver to the MLS Playoffs in the final regular season game against the Colorado Rapids on October 26, 2014. Brought in just a few months before the match, the towering defender had an outstanding performance, and was one of the key players in Vancouver’s late run to the playoffs.
In 2015 Kendall Waston was Part of the Best Defence in MLS
In the 2015 MLS season, Waston played 28 regular season games, out of 34 possible games, for Vancouver, as the Whitecaps finished third overall in the league, and second in the Western Conference. Those who attended BC Place regularly to watch the Whitecaps have noted how Waston’s defensive game has stabilized Vancouver’s game.
In fact, Vancouver, together with Seattle, had the best defence in the 2015 MLS regular season—both clubs conceded 36 goals in 34 games. Indeed, the 2015 regular season has been the club’s best since joining the MLS in 2011. Yet, in the regular season, the club was defeated in the Western Conference Semi-Final by the Portland Timbers 2-0 on aggregate.
Many had hoped that Vancouver would build on last season and, once again, push for one of the top spots in the regular season. Instead the club has been mostly impacted by inconsistency—with perhaps one exception: Kendall Waston.
The tall 28-year-old Costa Rican has played 16 games this season and, while he has like many of his teammates struggled to find consistency, Waston has been still been one of Vancouver’s stronger players.
Strong Performances for Vancouver Earned Kendall Waston a Call Up to the National Team
Yet his performances for Vancouver were still strong enough to be called up by Costa Rica regularly, and he represented his country at the Copa América Centenario in the United States. Unfortunately for Waston, he received a red card in the country’s first group stage match against Paraguay—ironically this was also his first match after he receiving a red card in the match against the Timbers on May 22 in an MLS league game.
Without Waston, Costa Rica lost 4-0 to the United States, and were eliminated from the competition early. Waston then returned to the final match against Colombia, which Costa Rica also lost. Yet, the defender must have been glad to be called up by Costa Rica, and to finally become a solid part of the Costa Rican national team.
Back from the Copa América, Waston played like a man possessed, and the defender has been Vancouver’s best player in July. It was, therefore, no surprise that Waston was brought into the MLS All-Star game by MLS All-Star’s manager Dominic Kinnear, who usually coaches the San José Earthquakes.
“For me, to be on the All-Star team is a blessing,” Waston told whitecapsfc.com. “It’s an honour to represent my club in this big game. It means a lot to me. To be honest, I didn’t expect it but I’m obviously not going to say no. I’m really, really happy to be there.”
Furthermore, Waston reflected on the fact that he was going to play against Costa Rica’s superstar Campbell: “It’s like a dream come true.” This has been the latest honour for the Costa Rican defender who, last year, was named to the MLS Best XI, and was also finalist for the MLS Defender of the Year award.
Furthermore, Waston became the fourth Whitecaps FC player to represent the club in the annual summer showcase after Jay DeMerit (2012), Camilo (2013), and current goalkeeper, David Ousted (2015).
Kendall Waston Came Off the Bench
Yet the Costa Rican did not start the match, and had to watch from the bench when Arsenal went ahead in the 11th minute, after Waston’s teammate Campbell converted a questionable penalty for Arsenal.
The All-Stars did, however, manage to equalize the goal in extra time of the first half when Didier Drogba managed to beat his former Chelsea teammate Petr Čech to make it 1-1.
The big man is in!
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) July 29, 2016
Then, in the 49th minute, Waston was finally brought on by Kinnear to make his first appearance for the MLS All-Star team, and the defender made his presence felt right away. He even showed off some fancy footwork when he dispossessed an Arsenal attacker, and tripled through midfield to lay off the ball.
Unfortunately for the big man, Waston was also involved in the final goal of the game, as Arsenal’s Chuba Akpom made it 2-1 after a low cross into the box. The ball went past Waston, who may not have realized that the Arsenal striker had found an opening behind him. In fairness, the All-Star team is a bit of a rag tag team, and in defensive play where communication, and automatisms are key, playing together for the first time can be difficult.
Hence, Waston will surely take the positives from being named to the team, and will hope that he can continue his strong season for the Whitecaps, who will, it is expected, benefit from Waston’s solid play to make a late push in the season and the playoffs.
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist, and holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London. His thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States”, and will be available soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @homosovieticus.