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Fan-favorite Matt Watson will not play for North Carolina FC in 2017

Posted February 27

Sep 10, 2016; Cary, NC, USA;  The Carolina RailHawks hosted the Ottawa Fury in a NASL fall season match at Wake Med Soccer Park. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-Carolina RailHawks

— When Matt Watson signed with the erstwhile Carolina RailHawks last year, his return to the club where he previously played four celebrated seasons was viewed as the final piece of what coaches and supporters alike believed could prove a championship-caliber team.

The RailHawks’ high hopes eventually devolved into an eighth-place finish in the North American Soccer League (NASL). And according to North Carolina FC manager Colin Clarke, the club’s reunion with Watson has come to an end after just a single season.

“He will not play for [North Carolina FC] this year,” Clarke tells WRALSportsFan.

Watson is in the second year of a two-year guaranteed contract with North Carolina FC. However, Watson has not trained with the team since its 2017 preseason camp officially opened on February 6. Watson’s absence appears to be at the behest of Clarke, who along with the club’s staff have been working to move the 32-year-old midfielder, either by transfer or loan. Even if such a move cannot be effected, Clarke says Watson will not compete for North Carolina FC in 2017.

Watson, a native of Redditch, England, played with the RailHawks from 2008-2011 before returning for the 2016 season. He appeared in 29 matches last year and ranked fifth on the team in minutes played, scoring three goals along the way. However, a breach of undetermined origin clearly developed between Watson and Clarke that festered into the current irreconcilable schism.

Eddie Rock of Libero Sports, Watson’s player agent, declined to respond to WRALSportsFan when contacted for comment.

Watson ranks among the RailHawks’ all-time leaders in career appearances, During his original stint in Carolina, Watson was a fan favorite and perennial starter who was named to the NASL Best XI team in 2011. In 2012, Watson followed former RailHawks manager Martin Rennie to the Vancouver Whitecaps in Major League Soccer. After two years in Vancouver, Watson spent two seasons with the Chicago Fire before coming back to Cary.

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