August 18, 2014
By Steve Hunt
Watson has been mentor, friend to Akindele
Dallas Soccer News Contributor
FRISCO, Texas---One of the biggest influences on Tesho Akindele since he was drafted by FC Dallas in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, other than first-year FCD head coach Oscar Pareja, has been fellow striker Blas Perez.
|Midfielder-turned-defender Je-Vaughn Watson has become a key mentor of FC Dallas Rookie of the Year candidate Tesho Akindele.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
The Panamanian veteran who has literally played all over the world and has been FCD’s leading goal scorer in each of the past two seasons has been a big mentor for Akindele, the sixth pick in the January draft from Colorado School of Mines.
But as great as Perez has been for Akindele, there has been another member of the Dallas roster who also has had a profound impact on the young striker, and that’s midfielder and now occasional defender Je-Vaughn Watson.
Watson and Akindele not only quickly became friends, but Watson, who is currently in his fourth MLS season and definitely knows the lay of the land in the league, has helped ease Akindele’s transition to the professional ranks.
“He’s definitely been one of my best friends off the field also, which has helped. It’s nice to know a guy in the city and be able to hang out with people off the field. Je-Vaughn’s always been there for me with that,” Akindele said. “He’s just always there if I’m not feeling good someday he’ll crack a joke and make me feel good. Then, if he sees me slipping up, he’s always there to correct me a little bit. He’s been really good for me.”
And it’s a relationship that also benefits Watson because he feels that Akindele, along with the other core of young players FCD currently has, help keep him on his toes and has him continually pushing himself to be better and better with each passing day.
“Sometimes when you meet a person, you gravitate towards them. Since he’s been here, we’ve become close friends,” Watson said. “(I tell him) you just need to work hard no matter what because only your best is good enough. He’s a guy who he always listens to me no matter what. He’s always got a lot of energy and that’s great for the team.”
After delivering a hat trick in Saturday’s 5-0 win at San Jose, Akindele now has seven goals this season, a total which leads all MLS rookies and ties him with Michel for second most on FCD.
Some might be surprised at just how quick of a study he has been in MLS, but someone who knows him pretty well isn’t shocked in the least.
“No, I’m not surprised. Whenever you work for something like he’s done and if you got the talent, you need to work hard, you always want to finish,” Watson said. “You always want to win. We make each other bring out the best regardless.”
Akindele is quick to credit everyone who has helped him make such a big splash as a rookie, including Pareja and Perez, but he also offers some kudos to his good friend who has shown him what he feels might be the key to being a good professional.
“I think like his work ethic too (is impressive). If you see him on the field, he’s a guy that you can always count on to get up and back constantly,” Akindele said. “That’s a good example for me.”
Another way Watson has been a great example to not just Akindele but his teammates is that he has been playing a new position, right back, this year after spending his first three seasons in MLS as a midfielder, playing mainly out wide.
It’s been a bit of an adjustment for the Jamaican veteran, but it’s one he makes with no reservations.
“Playing there, you’ve got to be more disciplined. You’ve got to defend first. When you’re playing outside midfield, you’ve got to attack first,” Watson said. “I listen to what they say, checked with my teammates. Whatever they say I should do, I do it because I’m new there. I will play wherever to help my team. If I’m going in the goal, I’ll go there and I’ll do my best no matter what.”