CHICAGO - The Chicago Fire today announced the signing of Canadian U-20 National Team player Will Johnson to a Major League Soccer contract, using a Discovery option to acquire his services. Per MLS policy, terms of the contract were not released. Johnson, who owns a green card, will not count against the Fire's four-man Senior International limit.
"It is great to have Will on the Fire," said Fire President/GM Peter Wilt. "He's a talented young player with a bright future. The Chicago Sockers have done a very good job developing young players and we're pleased to have Will make the next step in his development in his hometown."
"I'm excited to join the Fire. I've been following the team ever since I moved to Chicago eight years ago," said Johnson. "I'm happy with the group so far, they've all treated me very well. It is hard being the youngest guy, but it is also a great experience that will help me down the road as a player. I just want to thank the Fire for this opportunity."
The 18-year-old Johnson cracked Canada's Under-20 National Team roster two months ago when he made his U-20 debut against the United States in a friendly contest on Dec. 18, 2004. Johnson has appeared in seven contests with the Canadian U-20s and has one goal to his credit for the "Maple Leafs," which he scored against Panama in a 2-1 loss on Jan. 4, 2005. Johnson appeared in all three contests, including a starting nod in a surprising 2-1 victory over regional powerhouse Mexico, during Canada's run in the CONCACAF U-20 Qualifying Tournament in Honduras in January, and helped the country win all three contests on its way to booking a spot in this summer's FIFA World Youth Championships in the Netherlands.
"Will is a young player that we've been able to watch over the last year and obviously during the preseason this year," said Fire Head Coach Dave Sarachan. "We feel he's got a great upside as a young forward. He's been with the Canadian Youth National Team program for a number of years and has played at some pretty high levels. We think he has a great future in this league with the Fire."
After growing up in Canada, Johnson moved to west suburban Woodridge at the age of 10. In 2001, Johnson began playing club soccer with local side Sockers FC Chicago alongside current Fire teammate Craig Capano. In addition to his time with Sockers FC, Johnson traveled to England in 2003 and 2004 for separate training stints with Premiership side Blackburn Rovers. At 18 years of age, Johnson becomes the third youngest player to sign with the Fire in the club's history, surpassed only by Capano (16) and former Fire and current U.S. National Team standout DaMarcus Beasley (17). Johnson is currently training with the Fire during its three-week camp at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL.
"When Will came to play for the Sockers four years ago, one of his goals was to try to make it to the professional level," said David Richardson, Sockers FC Chicago Director of Coaching. "The good thing about Will is that he was dedicated to that goal. He would show up on extra days and played in our 'Top Talent' program year-round. He was focused on becoming a professional and did whatever was asked of him to reach that goal. He was not only a good player, but a good teammate, and that is something that he will carry over to the next level."
#30 Will Johnson
Weight: 160 lbs.
Born: January 21, 1987 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Hometown: Woodridge, IL
Last Club: Chicago Sockers
How Acquired: Signed with Chicago on Feb. 17, 2005
National Team Experience: Played in all three games (Mexico, Honduras, Jamaica) at CONCACAF U20 Qualifying in January, 2005 ... Started against Mexico on January 26, 2005 in U20 CONCACAF Qualifications ... Started against Ecuador on January 6, 2005 ... Scored Canada's only goal against Panama on January 4, 2005 ... Made his Youth (U20) Team debut in two friendlies against the United States in December, 2004
TRANSACTION: CHICAGO FIRE SIGNS CANADIAN U-20 NATIONAL TEAM FORWARD WILL JOHNSON.