When the Austin Aztex scrimmaged FC Dallas on Wednesday just outside Pizza Hut Park, it was a homecoming of sorts for several Aztex players. Two current members of Austin’s roster-Jay Needham and Jamie Watson, are from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex while goalkeeper Sean Kelley was with FCD during preseason and current trialist Dane Saintus also spent time with FCD this preseason and is also from DFW.
Needham is a native of Fort Worth who played for current FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman at SMU. Since leaving the Hilltop, he played for former FCD coach Colin Clarke in Puerto Rico in 2007 and most recently, spent two seasons with Alta IF of Norway.
“It was good. Overseas was fun,” he said of his time abroad. “I think it’s something that if you get a chance to do, you should go do it. I think every footballer owes that to himself. I got to have a run out there. I was very successful and got to play a lot. My wife and I decided it was time to start looking to come back home. Her being from Austin played a big part in me coming home, so it’s good for us. She’s right by her mom and dad and my mom and dad are three hours away. It all works out really well.”
Watson is a name a bit more familiar to MLS fans. After one year at North Carolina, he was a top draft pick of Real Salt Lake, who was then coached by John Ellinger, who now serves as Hyndman’s top assistant with FCD. Watson remained with RSL for several years before landing with FCD in 2008. Since then, he played for the Wilmington Hammerheads before securing a spot with the Aztex.
“(I have) a lot of great memories here. They have a great group here and a lot of them are still around from when I was here,” Watson said of playing on the same field where he used to practice with FCD. “It’s fun. Throughout the game, it’s more fun than others because you know everybody. Obviously, that makes it difficult because you know what they’re going to do and they know what you’re going to do. It’s great. I had a great time and enjoyed my time very much here. I’m just happy to be back.”
Needham agrees it was good to return to such familiar surroundings.
“It’s fun. It was nice when we were coming in and headed down the toll road, I had so many memories and was just thinking about spending the better part of my teenage years coming out this way and playing,” he said. “Of course, my history with Schellas (Hyndman) is four great years with SMU. It was fun. Today was kind of like a special day for me. Even if it was a preseason day, it was nice to think about all the good times I’ve had playing soccer and stuff.”
After the match, Needham was walking off the field with FCD midfielder Bruno Guarda, one of his teammates from SMU. The two have known each other for some time.
“Bruno and I were teammates. He was Texans ’86 and I was Texans ’85, so I’ve known Bruno since I was 15,” he said.
For Watson, having at least one teammate from DFW helps him immensely.
“We all know each other, growing up here. The familiarity off the field makes it easier on the field,” he said. “When you know somebody and are comfortable around them already, it’s easier to tell them what you honestly think. Sometimes when new guys come in, you don’t want to be too hard or soft on them and want to find that medium, which sometimes is tough. But when you know people and can be real with them, you cut to the chase a lot easier and a lot quicker. That makes it easier for you and vice versa. If I have something to say to Jay and vice versa, we can communicate easier.”