Wednesday, March 25, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Boys Soccer / South Puget Sound League North Division -- For Watson, It's Speed Over Size

Seattle Times South Bureau

AUBURN - Joe Watson waited to hear his name, and waited, and waited.

Surely, it would come, as it had the year before when the list of players chosen for the under-16 regional soccer team was read.

"I thought I had played pretty well," Watson said of the tryout period. "I was pretty sure I was going to make it."

This time, he didn't. Next time, Watson vows, he will - and more.

"As soon as I found out I didn't make it, I said I was going to make the national team this year," the Auburn Riverside junior said. "I've been working really hard. As soon as I got home, I started lifting weights and working on my skills."

Lack of speed, Watson was told, was a primary reason he didn't make the regional team. Not any more.

"That (speed) just came this year," he said. "I wasn't always one of the fastest guys in the league. Weightlifting really helped my speed."

Watson has always been one of the smallest guys in the leagues he's played in. Consequently, he developed some of the quickest feet around.

"Always being a little guy, I knew I had to get rid of the ball as soon as I got it," Watson said. "The other guys were always bigger and stronger."

Watson, 5 feet 7, has bulked up from 130 pounds to 150 since last year, thanks to the time in the weight room. He already is proving to be a big pain to defenders in the South Puget Sound League North Division. Watson, a midfielder, scored both goals in the Ravens' 2-0 victory over Kentwood last week, then tallied three goals and three assists in a 7-1 victory over Kent-Meridian.

Not bad for a guy who had eight goals and nine assists his entire sophomore season.

Auburn Riverside Coach Dave Winter is wild about Watson.

"Joe is what I would consider an artistic player," Winter said. "He's a very creative player. He makes the players around him better. The entire team plays faster when Joe's in the middle and controlling things. He gets the ball and gives it right back to you.

"Joe reacts to the ball better than any high-school player I've ever seen, and Joe is a great distributor. He finds people and gets them the ball. One or two touches, and it's gone."

It's all give and take, Watson said.

"My strength is being able to play off other players," he said. "I just give the ball up and hope to get it back in a good spot. It's pretty easy to score goals. Getting the ball is the tough part. My strength is getting open, then hope they (teammates) find me."

Watson started playing soccer at age 5 and took to it right away.

"I liked it as soon as I scored my first goal in my first game," he said. "Ever since then, I've sort of been hooked."

Playing in Costa Rica last spring with the regional team has been the highlight of his career.

"That was the funnest experience of my life," Watson said. "I can't even explain it."

If Watson makes the national team this summer, he'll be the second Auburn Riverside player on the squad. Junior goalkeeper Jeremy Proud already is a member.

"He's really good," Watson said.

Proud and Watson are two big reasons the Ravens are expected to challenge for the division title. Watson believes the sky is the limit.

"I feel we can go as far as the guys want to work," he said. "We've got a real good team. We don't have any weak players. If everybody wants to work hard, I don't see anyone stopping us."

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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