Player to Player with Kendall Waston

A Giant On and Off the Pitch – Kendall Waston’s Life In The Game (So Far…)

At six foot four, he’s a huge presence on the pitch; and as a powerful on field leader he’s not only dragged his nation into the World Cup Finals with a stunning last minute goal, but also landed himself on both the MLS and and CONCACAF’s Best XI. In this episode of Player to Player, Stevies sits down with FC Cincinnati’s Kendall Waston to find out how he became the man and the player he is. 

Kendall opens up about his route into the professional game, and how accompanying a friend to a try out unexpectedly led to his first club contract:

‘One day one of my teammates said: “Kendal, can you come with me because I have a try-out in Saprissa?” […] When I got there the coach asked me if I wanted to play, and I said “for sure.” So I went, and scored three goals – it was two corner kicks and one free kick. At the end of the game, they said that they were interested in me, they wanted to sign me, and I went, so happy, to my friend and said “hey, what’s up, what have they told you?” and he was so sad and said “no, they didn’t [offer] me anything.”’

Overcoming disappointment and developing the mental toughness to succeed – Kendall tells Stevie about the challenges of being sent out on loan, and how attitude is everything at the highest level:

‘To be honest, the first time they told me that they were going to send me on loan, I was devastated. I cried that day. When I went on loan to another team, and I started to play, I realized…this is what I needed – playing time. 

‘Then I started to score. I started to enjoy what I was doing.I started to believe more in myself because that was one of my mistakes – I was doubting myself so much and not focusing on my strengths, and only focusing on my weaknesses. As soon as I started to focus – yes, I can do it, I am big, I am strong, I can score, I can do this, I can do that – I started to believe more and obviously it started to show on the field.’

Getting his move to the White Caps under manager Carl Robinson, Kendall discussed how his game had to change with the responsibility and pressure of the captain’s armband:

‘As soon as Robbo told me: “ok, you’re going to be the captain this year,” I was surprised. I wasn’t expecting it, and it helped me to focus. Because the year before I think I had a lot of red cards, so this gave me more responsibility, and knowing that I’m not playing by myself and I have to be responsible because I cannot let down -the coaches, my teammates, and especially sometimes my family – because they’re also part of my team.’

With highlights and heroics at international level, Kendall talked us through the 95th minute goal that booked Costa Rica a place in the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and what it was like to score in their opening game of the finals:

‘We were so under pressure. We were losing – we just needed to equalize the game to qualify for the world cup. There was ten minutes or six minutes left and the coach said: “Kendall, go forward, go forward!” So I said “Ok lets go.” 

‘I was chasing. I was tired as well. and as soon as that cross came in I was like “please – this is this chance, this is the chance.”

‘And I just headed the ball, and when I saw the ball go in I heard all the screaming,  everybody jumping. I just started running around. I didn’t know how to celebrate. I just went crazy – running around – I was so happy. I couldn’t believe it!’

Stevie gets the inside scoop on Kendall’s tumultuous exit from Vancouver, and how he feels about the teammates he left behind:

‘What made me mad at the end is how it finished because […] if people don’t say wrong things, I wouldn’t need to come out and say the truth.’

‘When they told the media you are not allowed to speak to Kendall I was like wow, I feel really bad. I feel embarrassed, you know? It’s not like they are trying to talk to a robber or hoodlum. So there were things that just increase and increase, like a certain anger in me and a way that made me feel bad. Not about my teammates, because my teammates were the best ever but the people that managed the team.’

Check out the full interview for more scoops and stories, including what the future holds for FC Cincinnati, after a challenging start to the season.

Edwin Tubb