Portland Timbers were leading Chivas USA 0-4 on Saturday when they were awarded a free kick in much the same position as they had recently in the 1-0 win over San Jose. On that occasion, Portland captain Will Johnson stepped up and thumped the ball into the net.
As the kick was awarded, Steve Clare and Oregonian soccer correspondent Geoffrey Arnold hurriedly tried to remember who the opponent was when he successfully converted. One man knew. Will Johnson as he admitted monosyllabically after the match.
Luckily he was subsequently more loquacious!
Prost Amerika: As you were lining up to take the free kick that made it 5-0, did you remember what game you’d scored from there and who it was against?
Will Johnson: Yeah. I hit a few really good ones in the past couple of weeks. The keeper’s made good saves on me. One in the first half, a nicely hit ball which gave me a bit of confidence. Not just in training.
You take that confidence into the play-offs, see if I can get a big one in the play-offs.
Prost Amerika: Looking forward to the play-offs, do you have a personal favourite opponent you want to draw?
Will Johnson: No, to be honest with you not really. I think they’re all going to be great matches.The teams are going to finish within 3,4,5 points of one other from first to fifth in the West. It’s so tight. I don’t think there’s any advantage to drawing one opponent over the other. The teams are so even.
Prost Amerika: Watching you play over a period of time, it’s clear you play the game with a smile on your face …
Will Johnson: Yeah (laughs)
Prost Amerika: Digging a bit deeper than the obvious dumb question, how much does that tell us about how Will Johnson approaches football?
Will Johnson: This year more than ever, I’m really enjoying my role. I love the role I have with this team. I love being with these guys in a battle ever week. It’s something I relish. I really love having that responsibility. I think you’ve seen it in my play as well. .. I got a smile on my face. I’m happy.
I’m given the freedom to shoot from anywhere, to make mistakes, just to take advantage of a good situation. I’ve a coach of the team that believes in me.
Prost Amerika: Watching the Timbers the last few weeks, it appears that not every Timber has a great game every week, but somebody always steps up to win the game. Tell me what that tells us about this team.
Will Johnson: Yeah, different guys are chipping in left, right and center, I think we have the most diverse group of guys with eight or nine goals each or something like that. The numbers are quite staggering.
We don’t have one guy who just scores 20 goals and the rest of us defend, which makes us hard to play against. So I think that’s fun. Everyone’s chipping in. Everyone’s doing the work. You look at the guys who aren’t getting the goals, the back four, Diego Chara. Those guys are equally as important. We’re all in this together. We’ll stay together and fight together and continue driving forward in the play-offs.
Prost Amerika: You’ve played for Jason Kreis and Caleb Porter, two of the best young coaches in MLS. Can you compare and contrast the two?
Will Johnson: That’s hard man. They’re more different than they are similar in the fact that Jason was a player for the better part of a decade and a half and Caleb was a college coach and obviously his injuries
did not allow him to play at a high level for very long.
So Caleb’s very .. he’s studied the game endlessly. Jason’s studied it from player experience. So they both draw from those backgrounds to the point where they both have established identities for their teams. They are both winners and I got a ton of respect for both of them.