On the one hand, you look at Real Salt Lake’s young, talented midfield and you understand why they would need to make such a painful choice, to cut ties with well-liked midfielder Will Johnson and his relatively high, veteran salary. That happened late last year.
On the other hand, this man is flat out getting it done these days for the Portland Timbers, a two-way force that seems utterly indispensable for new manager Caleb Porter and his ongoing style makeover around Jeld-Wen Field.
Never was that more evident than Saturday, when Johnson’s leadership as well as his two strikes were so essential in a huge result in the Timbers’ young season.
Colorado had a two-goal lead at home in the 48th minutes. Two goals. On the road. Generally speaking, that is that. Most visitors begin licking their wounds at that point, conserving energy for better chances ahead to collect points.
Johnson scored on goal to get his side within strike distance. Then the Canadian international confidently slammed home a penalty kick to complete the comeback in Portland’s 2-2 tie.
What the Timbers’ veteran midfield man said about going down 2-0 on the road:
It was a bigger hole than we thought that we were going to have to climb, a bigger mountain. When those things happen, they happen so quickly that you don’t have time to analyze it, and get down, and say, “now we need two”. You just have to focus one goal at a time. 2-0 is I think the most dangerous lead in soccer because as soon as you get one, you’re flying, and you’re coming right down their throat, and the other team usually can’t handle it. We knew if we were able to get the first one, that that was the hardest one, and that we’d be able to get a second.”
Other Timbers performed well enough in the draw, but Johnson clearly was The Man according to Timbers fans. In online voting through Facebook, he received 80 percent of the check marks for Portland Man of the Match.
And the clevers from Stumptown Footy obviously recognized Johnson’s potent contributions as the Timbers remained undefeated on the road (over just two matches, but still …).