LEHI, Utah — Real Salt Lake welcomed midfielder Will Johnson back into the fold on Thursday as the Canadian international returned from Gold Cup action. RSL has been struggling, and so has Johnson: His Canucks were meekly eliminated in the group stage, conceding a late equalizer against Panama on Tuesday in a 1-1 draw for the final indignity.
“Obviously we played well at times,” said Johnson at RSL training. “Some errors killed us at bad parts of the game and in bad areas that put us on the outside looking in. Obviously with Grenada and Cuba not being competitive, that put us in a tough spot by having to win two out of the three games. At the end of the day that doesn’t really matter. We had to take care of business and we let ourselves down.”
Despite the disappointing result, he feels like the squad got something out of the tournament.
“We’re heading in the right direction,” Johnson said. “Obviously our ultimate goal is World Cup qualifying. We’re disappointed with things not going our way in the tournament — not finishing our chances and giving up really poor goals.”
The Canadians scored just twice in the tournament, both courtesy of Dwayne De Rosario penalty kicks. Thus, the early return home for Johnson.
“On the bright side, it’s really nice to be back here,” he said. “Everybody was very receptive and they all watched the games and stuff, so I didn’t have to explain that we gave up a goal in the last second. It’s good to be back.”
While away Johnson did get some updates about what was going on with RSL, but he admits that seeing his club play without him is an uncomfortable thing to do.
“I kept in touch with a lot of the guys,” he explained. “I watched a few of the games online. It’s hard to be on the road and watch your team play. It’s not an easy experience, and it’s not something that I like doing when I’m away with the national team.”
As for what Johnson might bring to the table for his club squad, he said to expect the usual.
“I’m not a changed player from three weeks ago," he said. "You’ll get what you get every game with me — I’ll try to give the guys a boost and some legs."
The midfielder admitted he was tired from a long tournament that included a lot of travel, but he insisted that he would be available to start should head coach Jason Kreis call his number Saturday against D.C. United (9 pm ET, MatchDay Live).
“I feel alright. With a game on Tuesday I think it puts me in a position to start,” Johnson said. “There are three more games again next week. I’m sure that Jason [Kreis] has got a plan as far as rotating.”