Photo courtesy of MLSSoccer.com
The Portland Timbers come to town on Wednesday August 7th for the US Open Cup Semifinal match against RSL. This will also be the first time that former RSL midfielder, now captain of the Portland Timbers, Will Johnson, has returned to Salt Lake City. We are good friends with Will here at Keepin’ It Real and we were able to give him a call the other night and catch up with our good friend. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: How have you been doing in Portland?
A: I’ve been doing great. The family is great and they love Portland. My daughter is 9 months now and is running everywhere and biting everything. It’s great though. We love it.
Q: What is it like playing for in front of the fans at Jeld Wen field?
A: Jeld Wen is a unique atmosphere and one of the best in North America. The fans are behind the Portland Timbers 100% and it’s fantastic. It’s really a dream come true to play in front of such passionate fans.
Q: How has it been playing with POR Head Coach Caleb Porter?
A: It’s been good because we both came to the team around the same time. Obviously he being a new coach and me being a new player helped the transition for the both of us. I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s an incredibly smart guy and an incredibly competitive coach who I’ve really enjoyed playing for.
Q: You came in to the team and were given the role to lead the team as Captain. What has that been like?
A: I’ve always tried to go about my business and lead by example whether I’m Captain or not. I have a few more responsibilities that are fun that I embrace as captain of the team. It’s a big honor for me so I love to try and lead by example. As far as working hard and doing all of the things that I’ve established in my character throughout my career, these things have helped me become a good leader. It’s been a smooth transition for me and it hasn’t been as difficult as it may seem to someone on the outside might think.
Q: How did it feel to be nominated and play in your 2nd All-Star game?
A: The All-Star game is a unique event and it’s a blast. The parties, meetings and getting to hang out with the superstars in the league, the very best players, is something that I really cherish and enjoy. It’s fun to get to know guys. Most of the time, you only see guys from around the league when you play against them and obviously you never get to know them and just have a small conversation with them. That’s what makes the All-Star game a blast. Obviously, we were disappointed in the result. We would’ve liked to represent the league a little bit better on the field. But just the overall celebration and the soccer hub that Kansas City is turning itself into is fantastic for the league and for the sport. It’s a really unique occasion and one that I thoroughly enjoy.
Q: With only 3 losses on the season with a goal differential right behind RSL, what has been the secret to your success in Portland?
A: It’s been the same philosophy as Real Salt Lake where we have a good group of guys all committed to the philosophy of the team concept which has served us well. We want to continue to make strides and we know we’re not perfect. As far as being hard to beat it’s all about being committed to the cause and having everyone buy into the same thing. Those are the characteristics that have made us a tough team this year.
Q: Wednesday night is the Open Cup Semifinal versus RSL, what will it feel like playing in front of your former hometown and some of your close friends?
A: To be honest I don’t know. It’s a difficult thing to try and imagine. I have so many good memories and so many good friends there. We won a championship together and obviously that bonds together a group of guys forever. But as far as the game goes, I represent the other team now. I’m no longer Will Johnson #8 who plays for Real Salt Lake. I’m a different guy now, the captain of the Portland Timbers, leading a bunch of guys who wanna beat Real Salt Lake. So it’s a different situation. I have to stay focused and I can’t let the emotional side of Salt Lake being my home for 5 years get to me. It’s going to be all business and we’re going to do our very best to get a result and head back to Portland.
Q: What things have you been doing to prepare for Wednesday’s match and what do you expect from RSL?
A: We obviously expect a good game. They’re a good team. We know we’re going to have to play our best if we want to get out of here with a result. But at the same time we want to win so if they want to beat us, they’re going to have to earn it. We’ve watched some video and discussed some things about how they play a little bit. But at the end of the day, it’s 11 guys going against 11 guys and whoever performs the best that day will get the result.
We sure do miss Will and we’ll always remember what he did for our club. But we are extremely happy for him and the success that he’s having in Portland right now in his career. How about you?