Wednesday, September 10, 2008

FOR REAL: Will Johnson

FOR REAL: Will Johnson

I was able to sit down with Will Johnson for the first time, and below are the results. There is no doubt that he is a serious, focused, intense, hard-nosed individual who is also quite confident in his abilities. However, he was much more personable than I anticipated and I enjoyed the chance to chat with him.

1. Can you walk us through where you have been and where you have played soccer? I was born in Canada, Toronto. My parents were living abroad for a couple of years and I happened to be born there. So before I could walk I was already back to England, to Liverpool. I grew up just outside of Liverpool until I was 10 and then that’s when I moved to Chicago. I stayed there until all my friends were going into residency and I didn’t have US citizenship at the time and I wanted to take the next step as a youth player. So I got a trial at Blackburn and went to play with their academy for a year. I ended up staying there for about a year and a half. Then came back and that’s when I signed with the Fire, and ended up staying there for about a year and a half. After things went bad there I went over to Holland and stayed there about 2 ½ years. Now I’m in Salt Lake.
2. You mentioned things going bad in Chicago, were you disappointed that you weren’t offered a senior contract or was it just the pitiful MLS developmental contracts? Yeah, I was disappointed that I was offered a senior developmental spot based on my status as a young guy from Chicago where I was basically told I was good enough to be in the 18, but you know they tried to make a business decision and tried to screw me over a little bit and that didn’t sit well with me. And I didn’t want to be part of an organization that did those kind of things. So I left.
3. With all that travel, is there a city that you consider home? Yeah, Chicago is home. You know my friends are there. We have a house, but my parents aren’t living there. But when we all come home for the holidays, my brothers and sisters, we always go back to Chicago. That’s definitely what I call home.
4. Were you interested in other sports growing up, or was it just soccer? I was interested. Growing up in England I played a bit of cricket and rugby. But I got injured when I was playing rugby, I lost a bit of my tongue so I said this isn’t for me. They always got angry at the little guy running fast. But I enjoyed playing cricket and rugby when I was little. But once I got to America when I was a little bit older I knew that all I wanted to do was play soccer.
5. You were in the Blackburn youth program, how was that? It was good. It was a great experience. The facilities were fantastic! As the English academies have a reputation and I can attest, the chances of players getting from the academy to the youth team is next to zero. There’s one guy maybe every couple of years. It was good to go over and get my feet wet and learn what it’s like to be in a pro environment. I learned lots of those things, but you know as far as taking the next step where you are playing games in the first team Blackburn wasn’t for me and a lot of young kids – not the place. And that’s why after Chicago I ended up going to Holland where they give young guys a chance.
6. How did you end up at Herenveen? It’s a funny story actually. After the Chicago Fire thing went down I went with the Canadian National team, we had a game in Austria. I think it was March the 6th. So there is no transfer window open, so I had basically 3 months to find a club. So I had a bunch of trials lined up after Austria but I wanted to go over, get used to the time difference, get my feet on the ground, get a weeks training in. So one of my good, good buddies is Michael Bradley and he just made the move to Herenveen. So through him I arranged to go there for a week, to spend some time with Michael, to get fit and sharp to go on some of these trials I was going on. They ended liking what they saw after a week, and asked me to stay another week. I was like oh yeah this could be great. Stayed another week. Played in a game, and did really well and after two weeks they ended up offering me a contract. That’s how it went down. It was pretty cool.
7. What was your experience like there? Awww…it was fantastic! I really enjoyed my time there. The first year I was there we won the Cup and the league reserve team. I scored a ton of goals. So it was a lot of fun, and I broke into the first team for the first time, getting some games with a team that was in the UEFA Cup, so it was a great experience. But after going on a loan for a year, I ended up making a decision to come back here to get more 90 minute games. I just felt like I wasn’t getting enough 90 minute games. You know I’m not getting old, but at 21 I felt I wanted to try and come back to a place where I’d have a good chance at playing some 90 minute games.
8. While you were in the Dutch league you felt like things were going well? Yeah, things were going well I wanted to be more of a guy that’s counted on a little more than just a role player or a little bit of a pitch hitter. I think I played close to 30 games last year including Cup games. For someone my age it’s quite a good accomplishment. But I wasn’t getting enough 90 minute games, and to develop a little more and to get better at the things I want to get better at – basically to get to the next level – I just felt like that would be an important step.
9. So when you came back here, were there any teams that you were interested in? Were there any teams interested in you? Yeah there were quite a few teams. I think my agent, Ron Waxman, spoke to every team in the league. I just made it clear that I didn’t want to Chicago. I heard that the two teams that were most interested from day 1, which always means a lot, were Salt Lake and DC. Two fantastic clubs who I both heard good things about. So when –nothings guaranteed –but I heard it was those two teams that got me really excited and I was like okay I’ll sign with the league and hope it goes to one of those two places. I couldn’t be happier that I ended up here things are really good.

10. So when you first found out it was Salt Lake what was your immediate reaction and how much did you know about the club? I had spoken with Jason and with Garth, the GM, and I had gotten a very good impression from them. They told me there is no guarantees with anything. You can come in and if you do well, then you’ll play. I liked the way that they approached me, and I liked the way that they were very excited. And I think it’s a very exciting time for this club, moving forward into the future and into the new stadium. You know all of those things excited me and I felt that this would be a place that I’d really fit in and so far that’s definitely proven to be the case.

(continued - part 2)