Now in his fifth season with Real Salt Lake, midfielder Will Johnson has become a fan favorite in Utah, and he has a reciprocal appreciation for RSL's loyal fan following. A member of the Canadian National Team, Johnson doesn't like missing MLS matchups for his FIFA obligations. Deseret News sports writer James Edward recently caught up with the steady Real Salt Lake player.
Q: October is a huge month for you. Between the final month of MLS league play, the last and biggest Champions League group game and two huge World Cup qualifying matches with the Canadian National Team, it has the potential to be a very memorable month. Are these the moments you dream of as a soccer player?
A: It's a big month. It's going to be a lot of fun, a lot of pressure games. Make or break everything. Try and get to the Champions League quarterfinals, try and get to the Hex (round of World Cup qualifying) and try and get us to the top three in the playoffs. Every minute of every game is important. This is why you work so hard for October and November.
Q: Most Real Salt Lake fans know about your role with the Canadian National Team. What's the most difficult part about trying to jugglE your time and schedule between two commitments?
A: Missing games is the hardest thing for me. I hate when they schedule RSL games on FIFA dates or in and around. I believe the Seattle game (on Oct. 17) I'll probably miss that one. I don't think it's fair to clubs. Jason (Kreis) and these guys are fantastic and they support me, but we lose three or four good squad players every time there's an international break, that's extremely hard for the club. Personally that takes a toll on me. I don't like watching my team on TV. The struggle of having to watch and having no impact on the game is one of the hardest things I've had to deal with as a professional.
Q: Incredibly, this is your fifth season with Real Salt Lake. What's something about this city and state that you've really come to love during your time here?
A: I love a lot of it. I think the first and foremost reason I've stayed so long is the club; they've treated me well. The fans, we're starting to sell out more and more games. Everybody is always appreciative of what I do on and off the field. I enjoy playing for this club. Obviously the city, the outdoors, goes without saying. The one thing that's kept me here is Real Salt Lake and its fans.
Q: You're currently enrolled in the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah. Do you have specific long-term ambitions for life after soccer.
A: Not so much right now. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself. I'm trying to focus on prolonging my career as long as possible. You never know when that injury is going to occur or when your time is going to be up. I come from a family of academics and I just want to be as prepared as possible. Obviously I love the game way too much to ever step away from it, but I think a business/finance degree could help me down the road.
Q: You're a Liverpool guy, but the Red aren't exactly off to the best start with one win through six matches. What's it going to take to get things turned around?
A: Rebuilding. They had to tear the whole thing down. They had some managers who came through there and messed everything up and they have a lot of dead wood. They have a lot of good players now with competition in the squad. So we'll see. It's not good right now. It's ups and downs. It's hard when your best players get older and move on. All these guys that have played there for so many years are getting older, and you've got to try and replace them. It's a challenge that RSL is going to have to do in the next few years. You'll see, it's a very difficult thing to find good young players because everybody's got them. It's hard.