NE Revolution defender Je-Vaughn Watson embracing role as utility man

Jae C. Hong/AP Photo

ALLSTON, Mass. -- Over the course of his 12-year professional career, Revolution defender Je-Vaughn Watson has learned to never shy away from an opportunity, unglamorous or otherwise. On Wednesday, both he and his team reaped the rewards of that attitude.

With a trip to the U.S. Open Cup semifinals on the line, the Jamaican international scored early before converting the clinching penalty strike in Wednesday's 1-1 (4-2 penalties) win over the Philadelphia Union at Harvard University.

Watson, who has started at four different positions this season, told the media after the match that he almost didn't get the chance to convert the game-winning strike. Center back Jose Goncalves was originally penciled in to take the kick, but he deferred to Watson, who relished the stakes that come with the fifth penalty taker's role.

"I'm a guy (whose attitude is) 'I don't care' - I like the pressure," Watson said. "That's just me. I just go there and do whatever they (tell me). I always want to perform, and do the best to my ability."

Watson's drive and ability were both on full display in Wednesday's quarterfinal clash. He was slotted at left back for the second straight match, and went the full 120 minutes after playing the full 90 in the unforgiving altitude at Real Salt Lake on Saturday.

"I thought Je-Vaughn was a man tonight," Heaps said. "He's (underrated) for what he brings to our group and in the last 3-4 games, he's been one of our best players on the field."

The 32-year-old veteran defender - who's embraced the role of utility man - made an indelible mark on Wednesday's match right before halftime. On a quickly-played free kick in front of the box, Watson received a short pass from Diego Fagundez, trained his sights on the right corner of the net, and ushered it through.

"We got a free kick in the same spot before, and I found out then they weren't marking quick enough," Watson said. "So I told Diego to just pass it to me and I'll just try and get a shot off. So as soon as the ball came to me, I just put it on my (left) foot, and I aimed for the far post, and it went in. I guess that was a good kick."

As it has been for Watson all season, even the scoring sequence itself put Watson in a position in which he had to improvise.

"I have a (weak) left foot," Watson said, with a laugh. "So for the past week, I've been trying to kick with it, me and (Gershon) Koffie, after practice trying to kick some shots with my left, so I guess practice makes perfect."

He was perfect again in penalties. With the pressure on him to grab the game-winner against All-Star keeper Andre Blake - who made seven saves on Wednesday - Watson was unflappable with the full belief he was going to beat his fellow Jamaican National Team comrade.

"I think Je-Vaughn was really up for the moment," Heaps said. "You don't know what's going to happen on the fifth kick, and it was just a discussion (about) who felt more comfortable between Je-Vaughn and Jose, and Je-Vaughn really wanted it."

Not that it should've come as a surprise. Heaps has said more than once this season that Watson has done everything asked of him since joining the club right before the First Kick. To Watson, the motivation is simple.

"I'm here to win trophies," Watson said. "That's why I came to New England: Because it's a good team and I want to win trophies, and so we have to work hard. We put in the hard work (tonight) and we came out victorious."